There is a very interesting blog by Michael Schlosser outlining the challenge of capital asset reporting when a municipality has a significant as-built backlog. In Canada PSAB 3150 and in the US GASB 34 requires that governments provide full accrual and new capital asset accounting on their capital assets. Mike makes the point that the accuracy of such capital asset reporting depends on an up-to-date municipal infrastructure database and that, because of as-built backlogs, these facilities databases are more often than not severely out-of-date.
As-built backlogs are the result of some of the problems I have blogged about before that relate to the barriers to the flow of engineering information created by islands of information. A symptom of this problem is the as-built backlog, which consists of as-builts returned from construction that are waiting to be entered into the records database. These backlogs, which can stretch from several months to years, mean that the records database is always out-of-date making it difficult to provide reliable information about network facilities to the field, management, and the regulator.
The as-built backlog is a symptom of another problem, data redundancy. In many organizations the as-built problem is the direct result of paper flow. Paper as-builts returned from construction are redigitized into the records database, often a traditional GIS.
And the most important result of these problems is, as Michael points out, poor data quality, which has serious implications for the organization such as unreliable reports prepared for management and for regulators, for example, GASB 34 and PSAB 3150 reporting. Estimates of the quality of facilities records databases for utilities in North America are often on the order of 40-70%. In the UK inaccurate reporting has lead to massive fines such as the multi million GBP fines seen in the water industry (Thames Water and Southern Water) in the UK last year.