Cost of public infrastructure

Business National News

The construction of public office buildings during the10th and 11th Five Year Plan (FYP) involved huge investment. The offices are Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB), Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), Office of Attorney General (OAG), Supreme Court and Center for Bhutan Studies (CBS) which are located in the capital.

Most of the office constructions were funded by Government of India (GoI).

Office of the Attorney General (OAG)

With an investment of more than Nu 98mn, the four-storied OAG building has eight rooms on each floor.

Documentation with the OAG states that the construction work began back in May 2011 and was completed in 2014. The construction was carried out as part of the OAG strengthening program under GoI project tied assistance in the 10th FYP with an allocated budget of Nu 88mn.

However, in the process of construction, the budget requirement escalated to Nu 98mn with an additional Nu 10mn approved by a high level tender committee as mandatorily necessary for completion of work.

The total staff strengthat the OAG office is 76 and themaximum electricity bill the officehas paid so far,is around Nu 42,983.

OAG is one of the first buildings to be built under the green building concept. The green building concept primarily aims to achieve energy efficiency through natural light. It minimizes environmental impact by preserving the existing vegetation in its natural state.

However, officials from OAG said that the green building concept never really materialized.

“It is only the roof that is green,” said the official, adding that when it rains, the water gets in from the windows. The official also saidthe floorings have become loose and space has appeared between the planks. They have to use carpets to hide the flooring.

A toilet ceiling has also caved in on the first floor at OAG.

According to the green building concept,OAG should have had LED lighting along with movement sensors, backup solar, and double glazed windows.

Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB)

The five-storied Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) was constructed at a cost of around Nu 128mn. Construction began in 2014 and was completed in 2015.

ECBis also one of the green buildings.

The building has modern architecture and toughened glass walls.The glass covers three sides of the building on three floors.

The building has high ceilings and large corridor space. The corridors and walls are used for exhibitions and educating voters during the election period.

All the rooms are fully occupied. The rooms remain warm even without heaters, officials from ECB said.The highest electricity bill paid so far isaround Nu 100,000.

The ECB headquarters has 68 staff. It also houses the office of the chairman of Bhutan Children Parliament.

Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC)

With funding from the GoI, the office of ACC was constructed at a cost of about Nu 71.05mn.

Including the basement, it is a six-storied building with every floor having 18 working stations and a documentation room. ACC’s highest electricity bill paid is around Nu 92,000.

As of August 7, the total staff at ACC is 130 including ESP, GSP, and drivers.

The construction work began in November 2009 and was completed in 2012.

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court was constructed at a cost of about Nu 700mn and was also funded by GoI. The foundation stone was laid in October 2005. The construction of the Supreme Court began only towards the end of 2008. There are 87 staff at the Supreme Court. The electricity bill comes up to more than Nu 100,000 in winter. The Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, inaugurated the Supreme Court in 2014, during his first visit to Bhutan.

Center for Bhutan Studies (CBS)

The initial cost involved in the project contract for CBS in November 2016 was Nu 243mn plus Nu 46mn for the heating system. However, the construction is ongoing.

According to the Project Manager of CBS, it isa public infrastructure.  Any organization can conduct seminars and meetings at the CBS conference hall free of charge.

The structure of CBS is being built according to the landscape, and the building is divided into three blocks.  Block A and B are four-storied and block C is six-storied. Block A has 10 rooms. Block B and C have one atrium each.

Talking to Business Bhutan, the project manager of CBS said that the rooms are used as guest rooms. “International resource persons and guest lecturers who come for seminars can stay in the guest rooms. Block B is being used for events like art exhibitions.”

Most floors are open space. The project manager said that the space may be usedas a conference hall depending on the number of participants. 

The project manager said that CBS has installed a central heating system under the flooring. The office also uses a solar power system that generates 100 kilowatts peak (kWP).The room temperature can be adjusted on every floor and room. 

“With centralized heating system, the electricity bill will be one fourth less than the normal electricity bill,” he said.

Of the six floors, the first floor will be devoted to the body and its improvements for wellbeing, and the second floor will house the library of sound and activities centered on both sound and its absence, that is, silence.

CBS has 23 employees including support staff.

MoWHS

The Director of Department of Engineering Services with the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement (MoWHS), Karma Dupchuk, said that most of the agencies hired a consultant for their construction but theirs is a design approved by themselves.

He said that agencies have to get approval from Thromde who scrutinizes and incorporates traditional Bhutanese architecture, safety aspect, permissible height of the buildings and coverage of the building.  “There are no proper guidelines followed for the construction of public offices.”

So the ministry is now coming up with guidelines for the construction of public offices.

Earlier during the scrutiny of construction, the overall space occupied was overlooked.

He said that there was inequity in space utilization; like in some agencies the office of director was bigger than the office of minster.

The guideline will promote equity among the agencies’ utilization of office space. The objective of the guideline is to allocate right space to the right employee.

The guidelines will also ensure offices will be constructed as per the requirement of the office space. The current trend is to design and build offices as per the budget allocation.

Space will now be utilized optimally reducing cost. “In the process we would have built an infrastructure that would accommodate the required capacity,”said Karma Dupchuk.

The guidelines will also be helpful for the Department of National Property. DNP will have a basis to refer to guidelines while renting out space. Private apartments are being rented as government agencies using the rate per square feet. Now with this guideline, the authorities can determinethe rental value for office space. The guideline will be initiated after the ministry hascompleted an office inventory exercise.

However, the government halted new office construction in the 12th Plan in order to carry out an assessment of the space required.

There are more than 25 office constructions proposed in Thimphu and other dzongkhags.

During a Meet the Press, the Prime Minister Dr. Lotay Tshering, said that there are more than 30 units of office space constructions required including two major office constructions of the education and foreign ministries in the 12th Plan.

While the funds spent on public infrastructure is huge, in comparison central schools that have huge implications in terms of human resources and wellbeing have less investment.

At the moment, there are at least 63 central schools in the country.The highest amount allocated for the construction of a central school was for Tsirangtoe Central School. The amount was about Nu 157mn.

The new constructions include two intergraded academic blocks, which house 18 classrooms, and two staff quarters of eight units, two 180-bedded hostels and a multi-purpose hall.

The school has 751 students and classes from PP to 10.

The construction began in 2016 and finished in 2018.

Similarly, Dorokha Central School was constructed at a cost of around Nu 144mn. The school has a 120-bed hostel each for girls and boys. The integrated academic block has 18 classrooms, three laboratories, a staff room, multi-purpose hall, staff quarters, and offices for the principal and vice principal. There are more than 600 students enrolled in classes IX to XI.

This story was written with the help of BMF content grant

pic courtesy: Center for Local Governance & Research

Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu

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