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Asset Management and Facilities Planning

Asset management is a way of ensuring the maximum economic use of built resources over a given period of time.  In the context of education or health facilities in a developing country this would mean the most efficient use of existing facilities (with renovation if necessary) and the construction of new facilities only in locations where they are absolutely necessary using the most economic means of construction whether by contractors or local communities.  It would also include a maintenance plan for existing and new facilities to ensure that they have a long life at the lowest cost (the subject of building maintenance will be covered in a separate resource topic).


The initial cost of a building should not be seen as the final cost.  The total cost over the expected lifetime of a building will include the initial cost of the buildings, furniture and equipment, the cost of maintenance, the cost of any major repairs and re-modelling, the cost of maintaining furniture and equipment, the cost of replacing furniture and equipment and the cost of demolishing the buildings and disposing of the unusable materials.


It can be seen therefore that the provision of new buildings even if totally funded initially by external donors can become a liability to governments if they do not have the funds to cover the recurrent costs over the life of the buildings.  It may well be more economic to retain and renovate existing buildings and use them more efficiently as this will mean not providing additional buildings which will have to be maintained in the future. 


Planners in Ministries of Education and Health therefore need to address these issues before embarking on any large scale building programme of new education or health facilities and an asset management plan should be prepared before any new building programme or initiative is embarked upon.  This plan will establish what buildings already exist, where they are, what condition they are in, what repairs they require and how long they will last (the asset register) as part of a facilities mapping exercise.  The planners will then set out their requirements and priorities in terms of standards and buildings (design standards) and establish the demand for facilities and the locations where they will be required both at present and probably over a ten year period (demand for facilities).  It will then have to be decided how these buildings will be provided, whether by renovation or extension of existing facilities or by new build (effective use of resources), what materials will be required, what resources are available in terms of materials and skills (resource mapping) and how the renovation or construction work will be carried out (construction and management methods).  A maintenance plan should then be put in place to ensure that the assets are properly maintained and looked after and function as designed over the whole of their life cycle (maintenance). 


The first projects that I worked on for the World Bank in the 1990s were a series of basic education projects in Indonesia.  The main objectives of these projects in terms of facilities were to reduce the overall number of primary schools and to build new schools only where absolutely necessary.  It was necessary to reduce the overall number of primary schools because there were large numbers of under-utilised (or even empty) schools most of which had a full complement of teachers and this was leading to a major loss of resources for the MOE.  I for instance visited one primary school site where there were three, six-classroom primary schools each with a headmaster and a full complement of teachers but with a total of only around forty pupils in all of the schools (each school should have had 240 pupils!).


Guidelines for school mapping and data collection (1) were prepared and a school mapping exercise was carried out in each kabupaten in the project provinces  The school mapping and data collection results for Kabupaten Subang, West Java are also attached (2).  The results for all of the kabupatens showed that there were large numbers of under-utilised and unnecessary primary schools in all of the kabupatens studied and that it should be possible to close large numbers of schools which would result in large savings in terms of teachers’ salaries and also large savings in the cost of maintenance.  However, actually closing large numbers of schools proved to be more difficult politically!  I later worked on a World Bank junior secondary school construction project in Indonesia and for that project I developed a similar instrument, junior secondary school building condition survey (3) that was used by consultant engineers to carry out condition surveys of schools before we embarked on the school construction programme.


I have since worked on a number of other projects where I have developed instruments for collecting school mapping data and information on the condition of existing schools.  In East Timor, before work started on the primary school reconstruction programme, I prepared guidelines and standard forms for use in a survey of existing primary schools (4) (I also developed similar ones for a survey of health facilities).  In Tonga I worked on the TESP project funded by New Zealand Aid and the World Bank where I was responsible for a school infrastructure survey that was carried out by a local engineering firm and to this end assisted in the development of a school questionnaire (5) to establish details of the condition of all schools in the country.  I later worked on an education project in Liberia for the World Bank and prepared a similar school infrastructure survey document (6) to the Tonga one for a schools survey to be carried out by local engineers.  A condition survey of all schools was particularly important in Liberia which was starting to recover at the time from 20 years of civil war when many schools had been damaged or destroyed and there was no reliable source of information on either the location or condition of most schools in the country. 


In 2001, I was asked by Cambridge Education Consultants to assist in carrying out a study that sought to review DFID experience and practice in the fields of infrastructure and planning to education strategies in the context of then current policy frameworks. Furthermore, it sought to analyse this experience, make recommendations and highlight principles of good and innovative practice wih a view to how this contribution can be continued and enhanced in the future.  The study brought together a broad range of references as practical resources which it was hoped would prove useful tools for DFID advisers in the field as well as within headquarters.  My contributions took the form of sections on asset management (7) and school mapping (8).


Other documents of interest that relate to the topic of asset management are two written by Roger Bonner for DFID: an overview of asset management (9) that refers to his experience in India and a report on an asset management consultancy in South Africa (10); a facilities management plan for primary schools in Kiribati (11) carried out by consultants for AusAID; a primary and community school baseline data survey carried out by Australian consultants in Papua New Guinea (12) and a manual for use in the survey of the physical conditions of school buildings prepared by UNESCO for an education project in Indonesia (13)

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