Housing, water, sanitation, waste management, education, health and transportation all face major challenges in Bangladesh, a country under constant threat from climate events and the pressures of rapid urbanisation. Improved resilience of infrastructure systems is crucial to ensure access to education, health facilities, employment, trade and social functions and meet the needs of an inclusive, socio-economic and environmentally aware Bangladesh national identity for the present and future.
Arup Australasia, together with United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) in Bangladesh provided support, and indeed joined the Local Engineering Department of Bangladesh (LGED) on their journey to strengthen their capacity to better manage, maintain and build risk-informed and gender responsive infrastructure through developing and implementing an overarching and integrative Asset Management System (AMS). In doing so delivering some ground-breaking results and achievements which will ultimately result in improved resilience of the nation’s rural road network.
Use of Best Practice Asset Management Principles
LGED is one the largest public sector agencies of Bangladesh and plays a vital role in strengthening the local economy through planning, designing, constructing and maintaining local level infrastructures across the country. Contribution of these infrastructures are enormous in achieving the ever-increasing national growth. Currently LGED infrastructure portfolio includes 350,000 kilometres of rural roads and 1,300,000 meters of bridges/culverts.
The project’s aim was to create a new approach to managing infrastructure across the entire lifecycle which would lead to improved resilience, a positive impact on society and also contribute to achieving gender responsive infrastructure and gender equality. Core to our project approach was value realisation requiring a top down approach to communicate the WHY, ensure line of sight and to deliver on project objectives including:
- Gender equality, empowerment of women and gender-responsive and inclusive design
- Adaptation and mitigation to climate change
- Contribution to the UN Sustainable Development Goals
Five guiding principles were developed with LGED in their own words and own vernacular which reflected the Government of Bangladesh’s vision and strategic objectives.
These guiding principles then informed creation of LGED’s Asset Management (AM) Policy Statement:
By aligning asset management practices with resilience outcomes, LGED can make significant contributions to sustainable development and resilience, supporting Bangladesh to graduate from the category of Least Developed Country (LDC) status possibly as early as 2024.
Using an outcome led approach helped shift the focus from being an asset owner to enabling the provision of services and connectivity which resulted in improved resilience of the network. To date, the following outcomes have been realised:
Paradigm shift: LGED staff experienced a paradigm shift in moving from “engineers as asset owners” to “the importance of the role of infrastructure as an enabler to provide continuity of essential service delivery and community connectivity”
Alignment: with global, national and organisational objectives resulting in improved coordination among government and community stakeholders to meet demands of all including the vulnerable, poor and contribute to achieving gender equality
Capability building: Effective infrastructure asset management emerging as a high impact area for capacity development at local levels and signifies a new era of resilient infrastructure asset management for a sustainable and inclusive future and into perpetuity.
Outcome focus: Definition of success and translation into meaningful objectives including but not limited to:
- Asset management decisions to complement strategic planning objectives
- Asset management decisions adopt risk-based maintenance approaches where appropriate
- Empower LGED to start proactively managing their assets
- Provide justification for future investment and manage level of service for assets
- Ensure road networks are managed at optimum cost over the longer term
- Provide a platform for innovation and development of asset management good practice
- Establish accountability for asset condition and performance.
Performance Management: Introduction of a performance management approach to improve accountability and demonstrate effective use of funding to ensure improved service delivery and network performance as identified below:
Value add – Aligning AM Objectives to national, local priorities and the UN SDG’s
Although SDG 9 explicitly refers to Resilient Infrastructure, all the SDG’s are underpinned by infrastructure development and management thereof. Infrastructure systems, especially road networks, enable us to commute, send children to school, get to the hospital and transport goods; essentially supporting economic and socio-economic activity and growth.
Arup developed an interactive mapping tool which provides a holistic and visually compelling story outlining how Asset Management contributes to the UNS Sustainable Development Goals. A snapshot is provided below.
Construction of the AM framework aligned with ISO55001, brings structure to LGED’s AMS encompassing enabling factors such as People (awareness, competency and culture), Processes (lifecycle delivery activities and decision making), Asset Information and Risk Management. Our approach adopted LGED’s terminologies facilitating evolution of and owned ethos.
LGED’s AM Framework as depicted in figure below was designed and developed to:
- Demonstrate the seven AM fundamentals (Context, Leadership, Planning, Support, Delivery, Performance evaluation and Improvement)
- Illustrate a clear line of sight
- Communicate the interrelationships and interfaces of all components
The following documents were co-developed and exist as “live” versions with review based on business needs, constraints, environmental, political or technological changes.
- AM Guiding Principles
- AM Policy
- AM Objectives
- Strategic Asset Management Plan
- Asset Management Plan – Roads pilot
- Asset Management Plan – Bridges pilot
- Asset Information Management Strategy
- Professional Development Strategy
- Capability Building Plan
- Asset Management Awareness and Orientation Training course materials
- Asset Management Basic Course training materials in preparation for certificate level qualification exam
LGED’s AMS sets the broad framework for undertaking asset management in a structured and coordinated way by:
- Ensuring a consistent approach to asset management
- Encouraging continuous improvement of asset management through leadership, cross functional integration, effective communication and cultural shift
- Ensuring that the assets are managed in a sustainable manner, with appropriate levels of service that balance the needs of users, environmental requirements, social obligations, available resources, and operational capabilities
- Maximizing value-for-money, considering the whole life cycle costs covering planning, designing, creation, operation, maintenance and decommissioning of assets
- Demonstrating transparent and responsive asset management processes that align with established best practices
- Developing and continual updating of Strategic Asset Management Plans that become the primary framework to maintain asset services for current and future generations
- Providing resources and support to enable improved asset and infrastructure data attributes and information
- Sharing of asset data for robust decision making and managing risks associated with assets to meet the needs of the end users/key stakeholders
- Promoting continuous professional development on asset management.
2.2 Level Assurance
UNOPS and Arup were very conscious to ensure meaningful reasons for change and sustained transformation. This demanded a multifaceted approach to ensure a level of assurance to deliver on project outcomes and value. To realise improved resilience outcomes for infrastructure through the implementation of an AM approach, it was imperative to have a reliable and robust level of assurance. Too often donor funded initiatives result in volumes of weighty tomes with a fleeting lifespan across pilot projects and then shelved, devoid of any lasting meaning.
To ensure a reasonable level of assurance was maintained at all times, we continually developed, tested and refined mitigating actions and plans in response to identified categories of risk including project risk, governance and ultimate ownership risk, engagement risk, knowledge risk, value risk to ensure delivery of contextualised, appropriate project outcomes.
2.3 Learning Organisation
- People do asset management
- Assets exist to provide a service
- Structured integrative approach and framework
- Importance of leadership and commitment
- Software and technology as an enabler
At the heart of the collaborative effort is LGED’s leadership and management commitment to enhance the understanding and build asset management knowledge of key stakeholders in LGED and other government agencies by placing people, and especially that of women, central. Orientation workshops and a learning tour to Australia were carried out as initial capacity building interventions, both contributing to a new perspective within LGED and a fundamental shift with personal investment in the transformational journey.
A professional development strategy and a capacity building plan were developed to support LGED, build awareness of the asset management system and associated processes, systems and practices, and creating Asset Management champions.
Delivery of an interactive training course on Principles of Asset Management played an integral role in preparing these ‘champions’ as influencers and advocates of the benefits of Asset Management. A series of follow up review sessions simulating mock tests for candidates in exam-like ambience provided invaluable. As a result of these efforts, and to date, 19 LGED officials, among them 4 female engineers, have been awarded a Certificate of Asset Management.
Bangladesh Government’s 2021 launch of the national 8th 5 year plan incorporates an Asset Management approach, objectives and targets (page 454) and as noted in the excerpts below.
Degree of Originality and Ingenuity of Solution
Establishing and maintaining a high level of engagement with LGED to transform thinking, encourage ownership and accountability was achieved through:
The project’s innovative approach as illustrated below was co-created jointly with Arup, UNOPS and LGED.
LGED AMS Development approach and Process Copyright UNOPS Bangladesh
The Bangladesh based team of UNOPS professionals brought invaluable expertise and knowledge of local operational, cultural, social and political parameters and nuances. This provided a critical filter to ensure contextually appropriate approaches, methods and resources were always deployed.
Various institutional arrangements within LGED have been made in the development process of the AMS. For instance, LGED formed Working Groups overseen by its Asset Management Committee. Group discussions, sharing knowledge, field visits and workshops are among the key activities in the co-creation process with LGED. These processes created ownership and buy-in which was critical for the sustained commitment to improve AM practices.
4. Program and Project Management
A working group made up of UNOPS, Arup and LGED members continually reviewed the initiative, working together to develop and agree appropriate delivery methods and solutions to maximise knowledge transfer and encourage accountability and ownership by LGED. Constant engagement and open discussions underpinned the necessary positive relationship and building of trust to deliver the very best outcomes.
Time spent in Bangladesh was invaluable to experience first-hand the different challenges on the ground. The initial program nominated two in country mission trips, however by the project completion in December 2020, five separate mission trips to Bangladesh had been undertaken.
Our working model, as illustrated below, was geared to flexible and adaptive working arrangements.
In response to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and safety of all front of mind, the project team efficiently adapted working arrangements to flexible, technology-mediated tools for remote collaboration, learning platforms to continue effective engagement and real time dialogue and delivery.
5. Benefit of the project or service to the community or organisation
Crucial to the success of the project was the realisation by LGED’s top management that Asset Management helps bring about cultural change within the organisation by empowering people and through improving existing practices and procedures and enabling elements.
The benefits to the communities across Bangladesh cannot be underestimated. Helping Bangladesh progress along the path to becoming a developed country and increase the quality of life for its’ people has been a driving part of this project’s team. Some of the most important benefits and outcomes of the project are best understood by asking: “What is the likelihood and consequence of NOT doing something?”
Outcomes beneficial to the nation, people and communities are summarised in the statements tabled below.
Infrastructure investment is widely recognised as a crucial driving force for economic growth in developing countries. Inclusive and resilient infrastructure systems and networks are imperative to not only support the booming economy of the country but also maintain the quality of life for every individual. As Bangladesh is one of the rapidly growing economies in the world, the introduction of an Asset Management System will enhance and protect the lives and livelihoods of Bangladesh’s people through whole of life management of infrastructure ensuring continuity of services delivery to and connectivity among communities and enable efficient management of natural resources for now and for the future. LGED’s transition towards a holistic and integrated asset management approach will create resilient infrastructures in the best interests of the beneficiary communities now and into perpetuity.