The maintenance scheme for road and motorway bridges is not functional. The Czech state does not have a clear overview of the state these bridges are in and the repairs are slow.

Press release on audit No 19/10 – 17 August 2020

The Supreme Audit Office examined the maintenance of road and motorway bridges in the Czech Republic that has been performed since 2014. The audit has revealed that the Czech state does not have a clear overview of the actual state of these bridges. There is no uniform system for recording the state of the bridges and for planning their repairs and allocating funds for repairs. In many cases, the maintenance of bridges is inadequate and repairs are often postponed. The gradual deterioration of certain bridges can lead to costly reconstructions or even to a demolition and to a construction of an entirely new bridge. At the current rate of repairs and reconstructions, one cannot expect that the situation will improve in the near future.

In total, there are more than 17.5 thousand road and motorway bridges in the Czech Republic. Bridges on motorways and class A-roads (1st class road) are the property of the Czech state, bridges on class B- and C-roads (2nd and 3rd class roads) are owned by regions (administrative units of the Czech Republic). Documents provided by the Road and Motorway Directorate (RMD) show that almost 500 bridges owned by the Czech state and 3000 bridges in the estate of regions are in a state of serious disrepair. In the long term, the state of the bridges has not improved.

According to the auditors, the maintenance scheme for bridges in the Czech Republic is not working the way it should be. The Ministry of Transport (MoT) does not have an analysis of the state of the bridges and how they are maintained. Since 2007, the MoT has been obliged by legislation to keep a central register of infrastructure, but it has not yet adopted the relevant implementing act. As early as 2007, the MoT spent CZK 2.7 million on the draft decree and on the creation of an internet application. However, the decree was not issued and the application was never used. There is still no uniform system containing precise information on the state of bridges and their defects.

Expert inspections of bridges should form the basis for planning their maintenance and repairs. The auditors examined 27 motorway and road bridges and found that inspections had not been carried out correctly in any of the 27 cases. The RMD did not ensure their implementation within the prescribed deadlines, the inspections were completed with several-year delays, and inspection reports contained data inconsistencies and in some cases did not even correspond with the actual state of the bridges. Furthermore, in the period 2014-2019, the MoT failed to carry out a check aimed at the way bridges were inspected, registered, and maintained.

According to the auditors, the RMD did not maintain the bridges properly and it also failed to repair most of the audited bridges in due time. In the long term, the RMD did not address the deficiencies highlighted by inspections and delayed the recommended measures. As a result of this, the state of the bridges was gradually deteriorating to such an extent that several of them had to be torn down and new ones were built in their place.

The RMD also erred in the award of a public contract to address the state of disrepair of a bridge on the D1 motorway. The contract for nearly CZK 52 million was awarded without prior publication in a negotiated procedure which is not in compliance with legislation. The state of disrepair of this particular bridge was not caused by unforeseeable circumstances but due to neglected maintenance and by postponing necessary repairs.

The audit also revealed that the reconstruction of motorways addresses the unsatisfactory state of bridges only partially. For example, even on the upgraded sections of the D1 motorway, some problematic bridges remain unrepaired or only partly repaired.

The level of maintenance of bridges on class B- and C-roads owned by the regions could not be examined by the SAO due to its limited scope of authority. In other words, the SAO cannot audit how regions manage state assets.

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