Auditor-General’s 2015 Report: Summary on infrastructure planning

We’ve copied and pasted the following section on infrastructure planning from Chapter 1: Summaries of the 2015 Auditor-General’s report, since much of the discussion is focused on schools as infrastructure and is of interest to Fix Our Schools:

“Ontario’s portfolio of public infrastructure includes highways, bridges, transit systems, schools, universities, hospitals, government buildings, and a wide variety of other assets. It has a replacement value of close to $500 billion.

The Ontario government oversees about 40% of these assets, either directly or through broader public-sector organizations such as school boards and hospitals.

Much of Ontario’s current stock of infrastructure was built between the end of the Second World War and the 1970s. Infrastructure spending slowed between 1980 and 2005, but picked up again in the last 10 years.

Many infrastructure assets are older. The average age of hospitals in Ontario, for example, is 45 years, while the average of schools is 38 years. More than half of all hospitals and schools in the province are at least 40 years old.

In the last 10 years, Ontario’s largest infrastructure spending has been in the transportation sector, followed by health and education. Over those 10 years, for example, the province spent nearly $20 billion on transit projects, more than $23 billion on roads and bridges, nearly $25 billion on major hospital and other health-care projects, and nearly $21 billion on schools and post-secondary facilities. Infrastructure spending includes preserving or expanding existing assets, and building new ones.

Proper planning is necessary to ensure infrastructure needs are identified and existing infrastructure is adequately maintained and renewed for public use. Such planning must take into account the benefits of infrastructure investment, the risks to the public when needed facilities are not built or are allowed to deteriorate, and the resources required to meet future demand.

The Treasury Board Secretariat (Secretariat), responsible for reviewing infrastructure funding requests from ministries, generally evaluated each ministry on a stand-alone, historical basis, and did no comparison at an overall provincial level to ensure the most pressing needs receive top priority for funding. Some of our significant observations include the following:

• Two-thirds of funding is planned to go toward building new assets and one-third to repairs and renewals of existing facilities, even though the province’s analyses has determined that it should be the other way around in order to adequately maintain and renew existing public infrastructure.

There are no guidelines for the desired condition at which facilities should be maintained, and there is no consistency among ministries on how to measure the condition of asset classes such as highways, bridges, schools, and hospitals.

• Ontario lacks a reliable estimate of its infrastructure deficit—the investment needed to rehabilitate existing assets to an “acceptable” condition—to better inform where spending should be directed.

• An independent assessment calculated that the Ministry of Education needs $1.4 billion a year to maintain schools in a state of good repair. However, actual annual funding in the last five years has ranged from $150 million to $500 million.

• A similar assessment done for the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care identified annual funding needs of $392 million for the province’s hospitals. However, funding since 2010/11 was just $56 million, and rose to $125 million in 2014/15.

• Existing funding does not address significant pressures faced by ministries for new projects. For example, there are 100,000 students in temporary accommodations (portables) and about 10% of schools in the province are operating at over 120% capacity. Although portables are needed to provide some flexibility to address changes in school capacity, existing funding is not sufficient to rehabilitate the existing portfolio and to replace these structures with more permanent accommodations in some cases.

• The Secretariat did not know how well individual projects were managed. Our review of reports from the ministries to the Secretariat noted that information is generally reported at a program level only, and not on individual projects within a program. Instead, the Secretariat relies on ministries to monitor individual projects.”