Evaluation of the Safety Control of Public Infrastructure Facilities
December 27, 2016
Public Administrative Evaluation Division of
Programs Evaluation Bureau
The National Assembly Budget Office conducted an evaluation of the current practices regarding the safety control of public infrastructure facilities and suggested improvement measures pursuant to relevant laws, including the ｢Act on the Management of Disasters and Safety｣ and the ｢Special Act on the Safety Control of Installations｣.
According to the results, 25.6% of small-scale vulnerable public facilities (such as social welfare facilities) are found to have had safety control failures and deficiencies during the recent five-year period, and the number of public facilities (construction sites and residential structures other than Type I and Type II facilities) that collapsed during the same period also rose from 220 in 2009 to 431 in 2015, indicating inadequate and substandard control of the safety of the nation's public infrastructure facilities. At the same time, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport stated that as of 2015, infrastructure facilities in the nation are overall in a safe condition, citing that 95.5% of Type I and II facilities (such as dams and bridges) received an A (outstanding) or B (satisfactory) rating. However, the results of the 2016 inspection conducted by the Board of Audit and Inspection showed a different picture, detecting cases of improper crack management for bridges and of improper safety control for large-scale walls.
Below are measures that can be taken to enhance the structural and operational safety of public infrastructure facilities:
First, the professional capacity of private inspection agencies that perform safety appraisals on behalf of the public sector should be strengthened. In 2015, the Korea Infrastructure Safety and Technology Corporation reviewed the results of safety evaluation conducted on 5,600 public infrastructure facilities by private inspection agencies. The review revealed that out of the 5,600 safety evaluation cases, 265 (5.5%) cases needed to be corrected or had been poorly assessed in relation to significant issues directly related to the safety of the facilities. In this context, there is a strong need to toughen inspection regulations for public facilities, such as granting the head of a municipal government the power to issue an administrative order, including a business suspension order, to such private agencies for their poor or deficient performance in accordance with Article 9.4 of the ｢Special Act on the Safety Control of Installations｣.
Second, follow-up measures, such as repair and reinforcement work, should be monitored more rigorously than before. A recent safety inspection on small-scale vulnerable public facilities found that 2,283 facilities needed follow-up measures. However, follow-up measures were only carried out on a mere 7.2% (164 facilities) of these. Furthermore, there are several cases in which some of the facilities designated for special maintenance that had received an E (safety failure) rating and needed immediate treatment ten years ago still remain unattended and have received the same E rating again. Therefore, there is a need for stronger government intervention to monitor post-inspection measures, including using fines or other tough administrative measures for cases of non-compliance with follow-up care at the local government level and having the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport monitor follow-up practices on a regular basis and reflect the results of such monitoring when drafting detailed plans on the implementation of the Third Basic Plan on the Safety Control and Maintenance of Public Facilities.
Third, Such implementation plans should be formulated and put into action on a yearly basis. Currently, the relevant five-year Basic Plans do not have any concrete implementation plans, and thus, they suffer a lack of substantiality and effectiveness. In this regard, a revision to the ｢Special Act on the Safety Control of Installations｣ should be considered so that practical implementation plans can be established and put into practice.
Fourth, preventive measures should be adopted to manage the risk of aging infrastructure facilities. As of 2015, 4.0% of Type I and II facilities have been in use for at least 30 years. The number is expected to go up to 36.9% in 2030, indicating the rapid aging and deterioration of public infrastructure facilities in the nation. Despite this, the Third Basic Plan on the Safety Control and Maintenance of Public Facilities (2013 through 2017) introduced by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport and the Third Basic Plan on Safety Management (2015 through 2019) of the Ministry of Public Safety and Security have failed to specify detailed measures to address the issue.
Fifth, given that delayed investment in infrastructure maintenance and repairs will only lead to costly repairs, renovations, or modernization further down the road, public agencies responsible for managing and maintaining public facilities should secure adequate budgets in order to implement the Basic Plans in a timely manner.
Lastly, financial incentives, such as subsidies, tax benefits, or loans, should be considered to encourage private social welfare agencies to voluntarily repair and rehabilitate their existing facilities and remove their dilapidated installations and structures.