Shapira sharply criticized both the Transportation Ministry and the Haifa municipal firm Yefe Nof for mismanagement of the region’s Metronit bus rapid transit (BRT) system, in his latest report released on Wednesday.
After years of inter-governmental planning, the Metronit system opened its doors to travelers in the Haifa metropolitan region in August 2013. Aiming to achieve optimal efficiency, the system makes use of 45 kilometers- worth of exclusive lanes that receive priority crossing, for 84 diesel and six hybrid lowto- the-ground, high capacity buses and 140 stations.
In 2007, the Transportation and Finance ministries assigned the project’s management and planning operations to the Haifa Municipality-owned Yefe Nof company, originally budgeting about NIS 540 million for the project’s infrastructure construction, the report explained.
Costs significantly increased, however, rising to about NIS 1.59 billion by July 2013, a month before the Metronit opened, according to the State Comptroller’s Office. Shapira’s report identified deficiencies in management, implementation, and supervision involved with constructing the Metronit infrastructure, during an assessment that occurred from September 2012 through February 2013.
“The review revealed many fundamental flaws in project management, beginning at the government level – the Transportation Ministry – and ending with Yefe Nof,” the report said.
Shapira criticized the Transportation Ministry for neglecting to implement an organized procedure for the selection of technological alternatives for the project and for failing to determine a fitting budgetary framework for the plans.
In addition, the Transportation and Finance ministries did not make agreements ahead of time with local authorities regarding the content of the project as well as participation in its financing, the report added. The ministry signed agreements about the Metronit’s operation with Kiryat Ata, Kiryat Bialik, and Kiryat Motzkin only in July 2012, five years after the beginning of the project, and by the end of the audit had not yet signed an agreement with Kiryat Yam, Shapira wrote.
Equally problematic on the part of the Transportation Ministry was the lack of supervision involved with the project’s implementation, as well as the failure to meet deadlines and budgetary restrictions, the state comptroller said. Metronit opened only in August 2013, nine months after the system’s scheduled launch, the report said.
As far as Yefe Nof is concerned, Shapira wrote that his office “views very harshly the mismanagement of the project.”
Deficiencies were prevalent in the company’s testing of alternative plans and feasibility examinations, organizational preparations for the project, and division of labor among company engineers, the report explained. Planning throughout the project was also problematic – failing to involve a safety report, supervision of changes in content, cost estimates, and proper supervision of the project’s implementation, Shapira wrote.
“Because of these deficiencies, the company did not stand by its determined schedule and budget, and for a very long period there was no up-to-date information on the precise situation of the project,” the report said.
Such deficiencies, Shapira explained, resulted in “the prolonging of work” in many crowded urban environments, thereby causing “long-term damage to the fabric of life.”
“Yefe Nof and the Finance and Transportation ministries must learn lessons from the oversights and errors in planning, management, supervision, and control that occurred in this project in order to prevent them in the continued implementation of this project and of other transportation projects in the future,” report said.
In response to Shapira’s criticisms, the Transportation Ministry spokesman said that the office had received the report and is actively working to immediately correct all of the deficiencies discovered, stressing that a portion has been undergoing correction for some time.
At this point, the Transportation Ministry has made agreements with all of the relevant municipalities, including Kiryat Yam, regarding the Metronit’s operation within their jurisdiction.
Transportation Ministry officials have spoken to those at Yefe Nof about the company’s conduct in carrying out the project, and tightened supervision on the project throughout the past year, causing a significant improvement in function, the spokesman added.
“Complex projects of the Metronit’s type are executed today only after meticulous planning, and implementation is contingent upon obtaining the opinion of an inter-ministerial monitoring company, shared by the Transportation and Finance ministries,” the spokesman said.
As far as the company is concerned, Yefe Nof emphasized the complexities involved with executing the Metronit project, in terms of infrastructural, engineering, and technological needs. The Transportation Ministry received updates throughout the entire process of planning and implementation, including changes and costs associated with the project, and directly approved every expense that exceeded the original budget, the company spokesman explained.
“A project of this magnitude has never been launched by an authority or public body, and doesn’t exist in this configuration in any other place in the world, so it’s only natural that its essence will be crystallized during construction,” a company spokesman said.
Acknowledging that company has received and is studying the State Comptroller’s Report, Yefe Nof maintained that it fully mobilized all of its capabilities to carry out a “national mission” of great importance that improved the lives of metropolitan Haifa residents.
“It can be said clearly today that such a ‘mega project,’ which in other parts of Israel remain on paper, took shape in the Haifa metropolitan region and transformed a theoretical vision into an existing reality,” the company’s spokesman said.