Letter to the Editor: Defective TIR Record-Keeping

I recently had an experience with my first ever FOIPOP [freedom of information/protection of privacy] request, made in regard to the “Annual Condition Defects Report” which, according to Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (TIR) documents, is required to be formulated by November 30th of each year by each area manager.

The purpose of this document, I assumed, was to establish a record of what roadway projects were being planned for the budget year.

Reference to "Annual Condition Defects Report" from NS TIR "Highway Maintenance Standards" (https://novascotia.ca/tran/publications/Highway%20Maintenance%20Standards%20Manual.pdf)

Reference to “Annual Condition Defects Report” from NS TIR “Highway Maintenance Standards” (Screen capture taken 5 June 2018)

I had requested simply to view that report in the local area manager’s office, and was told that I would have to FOIPOP (now a verb, I guess) it. So, I did. (Paid the $5.00 fee by check.)

A response came back from the Deputy Minister, offering me a “responsive” collection of handwritten notes that were not the report requested.

So, long story short, I requested a review of the Deputy Minister’s response, and again asked to be able to have access to — not even a copy of — the previously-mentioned report.

The FOIPOP officer who responded basically said that her office had done all that it could to determine why the “Annual Condition Defects Report” was nowhere to be found in the searches done by TIR staff.

Why does TIR reference this document and leave the impression that they are on top of things and forward looking?

Lots of credit to the journalists, like Frances Willick in this instance, who persevere through the inconsistencies in government reporting.

There is also a problem with the accuracy of the reports kept in local areas.

Each area, I assume, is like ours in that, when you have made a request — let’s say for ditch clearing — you are given a reference number. If you wish to check on progress with regard to your request, you call the local area manager’s number (in our area, there is a person who fields these calls for the local area manager) and you are given an update.

I called with regard to a couple of requests and used my reference number. The person fielding the call looked up the reference number and told me that the chipseal repair [I had requested] had been completed and that hotpatch had been used in the repair. I asked her to clarify that in fact hotpatch was used — she said that it had. I reported to her immediately that her record was inaccurate — hotpatch had definitely not been used. As a matter of fact, the patch failed before the end of the day and chunks of excavated asphalt were left in the travel path on a steep hill.

I drove down, removed the clumps of asphalt and put them in a bag. Two of these clumps were four or five pounds in weight. I took them to the local TIR depot on a Monday morning to meet with the local area manager who, I was told, would be there. He did not show; he went on vacation, I was later told. I showed the excavated material to one of the two workers who had spread the stuff. I made it clear that I had no beef with him and his co-worker, but someone authorized and ordered the spreading of that crap and that was not the right thing to put on any roadway, let alone a steep hill.

Records should precisely match what has been done; otherwise, why have a record?

A replacement manager from a neighboring area took the place of the vacationing area manager and he sent a crew down with hotpatch and the repair was made — incompletely, but at least material was placed that would stay in place.

If you do not bring [such a problem] to the attention of TIR you regret it. When you do bring it to their attention, silence is what greets you.


Scott Adamson
Ardness, NS