But the report, which assessed the performance of the project which cost about 102 million dollars mostly funded by an ADB soft loan, said some aspects were unsatisfactory and had not delivered the desired result.
“Compliance with covenants on road maintenance financing and outsourcing routine and periodic maintenance with performance-oriented maintenance contracts is unsatisfactory,” it said.
Sri Lanka’s roads have suffered from years or decades of neglect and poor maintenance because of inadequate funds, most of which goes to pay an overstaffed and inefficient government bureaucracy.
Corruption in giving maintenance contracts which results in shoddy work is another reason.
The ADB said only 11 percent of the provincial road network of the project provinces was in good condition at the time of the loan appraisal.
“This figure would not be much different today despite the RSDP having rehabilitated a further 14 percent of the network, as other roads did not receive proper maintenance during project implementation,” it said.
“This vicious cycle needs to be broken. A concerted maintenance campaign is required to clear the backlog.”
The ADB said a Road Maintenance Trust Fund established and funded through a one-rupee surcharge on fuel may be a way.
“But this approach needs the fullest support of the government, which it does not have at present. It is not known whether this one rupee is in fact charged; whether the proceeds are passed on to the RDA and the provinces; or, if so, whether this is additional funding.”
The government set up the Road Maintenance Trust Fund under the ADB loan deal with revenue collected from the fuel levy.
“However the efficacy of the trust fund is highly contested, and it may be discontinued soon,” the ADB report said.
“The government has made no other proposal to overcome the shortage in maintenance funding.”
The ADB project was meant to repair almost a 1,000 kilometres of rural roads and 125 bridges but managed to cover only 780 km and 74 bridges owing to several reasons, mainly cost over-runs caused by delays.
It aimed to improve transport efficiency, and contribute to expanding economic opportunities and reducing poverty while modernizing the working of the Road Development Authority, in charge of roads.
Other objectives were to help increase private sector involvement and capacity in road building.
“The sustainability of the RSDP is possible if all stakeholders deepen the achievements initiated under the RSDP,” the ADB said.
“The reorganization of the RDA has provided the basis for long-term institutional improvement.”