This area of work supports countries in the implementation of the ninth pillar on the OECD Recommendation on the Governance of Infrastructure (2020). It focuses on ensuring the performance of the asset throughout its lifespan by 1) optimising life cycle costs and asset quality and 2) putting in place monitoring and evaluation systems and institutions.
Ensuring quality infrastructure performance over the asset life cycle is a major challenge for many countries. Good governance tools should be in place at all stages of a public infrastructure asset’s life cycle, starting from planning, prioritisation and funding, to the design, procurement, construction, operation, maintenance and decommissioning. However, governments tend to focus more on infrastructure development and less on life cycle monitoring and evaluation. Assessment, upgrade and retrofitting of existing infrastructure assets to improve their environmental performance is particularly important to promote sustainable infrastructure. It will help ensure resource efficiency, investment, research and development in environmentally sustainable infrastructure. A focus on the performance of the asset throughout its lifespan strengthens public interest and accountability of service providers. Good practices to ensure infrastructure performance over the asset life cycle include: setting up dedicated units, enhancing the skills of sectoral units and regulators and streamlining the role and availability of specialised advisors. Involvement of other central agencies alongside the line ministry or agency is also encouraged.
• Infrastructure is long-lived and the adverse effects of ageing infrastructure can threaten assets’ value for money and capacity to deliver the services they are intended to provide. To ensure value for money over the asset life cycle, it is important to pay adequate attention to operation and maintenance. Failing to do so will breach service quality, over-expose ageing and brittle infrastructure assets to hazards and disasters.
• Monitoring the implementation and operation of infrastructure assets is crucial to ensure that the asset fulfils its intended purpose without delays and excess costs. For effective monitoring of whole-of-life performance, there should be a systematic collection, storage and management of relevant data over the asset life cycle. Digital technologies and data analytics are tools available for efficient monitoring and quality infrastructure performance over the asset life cycle. Additionally, ex-post value for money evaluations is highly beneficial for evidence-based decision-making and regulatory processes.
• Fiscal risks related to infrastructure present countries with a challenge in terms of public finances and long-term sustainability, especially in the context of global crises and recessions. Establishing mechanisms for identifying, monitoring and managing fiscal risks can help prevent them from materialising. Effective management of fiscal risks ensures infrastructure performance over the asset life cycle. It involves collecting and analysing information on a wide variety of risks, developing a prevention and mitigation strategy, and a clear allocation of responsibilities among various actors for implementing the strategy.
• Reinforcing the resilience of critical infrastructure systems and services is crucial for preventing service disruption. Resilience to time, usage, obsolescence, changes in climate conditions, hazards and disasters is a critical feature of quality infrastructure. A whole-of-government approach to critical infrastructure resilience is encouraged given the increasing interdependence of infrastructure assets, sectors and systems, and the diversity of infrastructure delivery models.
• Good governance of economic regulators is a key strategy in ensuring infrastructure performance over the asset life cycle. Legitimate, coherent, efficient, and predictable regulatory frameworks can positively impact infrastructure investment and performance. Adapting regulation to uncertain and complex conditions helps ensure continual services and flexibility. In the context of the Covid-19 crisis, easing regulations or expediting new ones has been beneficial for infrastructure service providers to adjust to new conditions.