Traffic congestion in the City of Buenos Aires is not a new problem. But the Auditor General of the City of Buenos Aires (AGCBA) added another uncertainty to the question: if there is no place to park, you cannot monitor the status of storm sewers, a fact that becomes relevant when taking into account the meteorological alerts locals lived through this week.
The watchdog issued a report which stated that the verification of sewers is done "ineffectively". What happens is that, for each county, the Storm water Management System (DGSPLU) assigns only one inspector, who also goes out by himself in his car: "This makes the task very difficult, the inspector must not only pay attention to his driving as well as other cars, but must also park in the very overcrowded streets of the City”. This is based on 2010 data. In the audit’s report adopted in 2009 on this same issue, the watchdog had detected that "there were cases of city inspector’s cars being towed by the City’s cranes, while the inspectors were working in the same area”.
But that's not the only limitation. AGCBA added: "The inspector, while he inspects the sewers has no blueprint or even a list of all the sewers and drains he must detect them himself". As if this wasn’t enough, auditors that accompanied inspectors while they were working discovered "new" sewers that were not listed anywhere, not even in the lists of the General Directorate.
How can it be that department responsible for the storm water System is unaware of the City’s sewers? It seems that any new sewerage installation in the City is "not announced by the General Directorate of Engineering to any other agency"; therefore, leading the audit to conclude that "DGSPLU’s coordination with other agencies of the City’s government is inadequate." Behind closed doors, the Department faces other issues. Traffic congestion exposes “flawed legislation", basically because the city does not prohibit cars from parking on public sewers. During the inspector’s rounds, the team of auditors observed that the inspectors could not "unclog and clean the sewers" because there where cars parked right next to the drains. In these cases, the DGSPLU has "insufficient power" because the inspectors cannot "remove the vehicles nor give tickets to the drivers." What the DGSPLU can do is "write down warnings and close preemptively" any establishments that are tipping cement on storm water sewages, however, this can only be done to prohibit cement, not "foreign substances".
Moreover, the watchdog explained that the "Directorate is very inefficient when it comes to enforcing maintenance tasks to the contracted inspectors of storm water drains”. The report states what was observed in the streets: “29 sewers were clogged 30% by dirt; 18 of them had 60%; six had 90%; three were completely clogged and five had broken bars”. According to the audit, "several of these anomalies were reported by the inspector of DGSPLU -by handheld receivers- to his own agency so the agency would then notify the corresponding contractors; 22 days had passes and two sewers were still in the same conditions." In addition, the last inspection of 2010 was done between October and December of that same year. This report found that "the drain located on 1708 Gorostiaga Street was flooded." The audit team checked this same drain on April 13, 2011 and the state of the surcharged drain had not changed. Despite this situation, the AGCBA said “no penalties or sanctions will be applied to the contractors during the year 2010”.
If we look a little further, beyond the maintenance tasks, the "lack of ruling against violations made by the contractors" also shows how old the equipment is. The equipment cannot be older than 10 years. The Audit explains that, on a total of 23 suction pumps checked, "10 (43.48%) of the units intended as pumps were over 10 years old, and had not been approved with the necessary technical qualifications”.
The tender for the four extensions
To preserve the state of sewers the Competitive Bidding was called into order in the year 2003. Contracts resulting from this process (LP 171/03) came into force in June 2004; they had an estimated duration of 48 months and should have had completed their work by May 2008.
So what were these outsourced tasks? Maintenance of storm drains, cleaning, unclogging, repair and / or replacement of accessories in sewers and drains, manholes, inspection chambers, branch lines, ducts, and outlet streams.
However, the Audit of the City of Buenos Aires highlighted in their report that there is a "lack of foresight" when it comes to calling for new tenders as well as the corresponding adjudication. In the 2003 original condition statement, there were two extensions that were made effective, one for four months (May to September 2008), and another for eight months, culminating in May 2010. However, there were two more extensions, the "Memorandum of Agreement" signed with the contractors, which covers the period between June 2010 and January 2011, while the second lasted from February to April of last year, with the possibility of adding additional monthly extensions from May 2011, but should not exceed the maximum period of four months.
When AGCBA’s report was published, the new public tender 2333/10 was in place, "having already pre-adjudicated the winning companies", the Audit explained.
Furthermore, the Audit of the City of Buenos Aires approved late last year an administration report on the work done in 2010 by the General Directorate, although it seemed more of a follow-up of previous observations. The Auditor.info published almost two years ago, on February 25, 2010, another article based on a report by the congressional watchdog itself, covering through 2008, which reiterated that many of the findings presented in this opportunity (an "ineffective" methodology to check the state of the sewers; inspectors who roam the city without collaborators and, because they fail to park their cars they cannot inspect sewers correctly, storm drains constructed by non approved agencies and addresses in question that had not been registered, were just a few of the items listed on the older report).
The article published in the year 2010 also stated that the management situation was, at least, curious. In a span of three years, between 2006 and 2008, the Director of DGSPLU changed seven times, and no holder remained in office for more than ten months.