ROAD Development Agency (RDA) acting director communications and corporate affairs Anthony Mulowa says a number of road projects were halted during the peak of the pandemic as most foreign contractors could not travel back due to lockdowns.

In an interview, Mulowa said the JICA Bridge Maintenance Capacity Building programme was also affected as most of the people who were supposed to train the staff were under lockdown.

“If you remember very well, that was December 2019 to March thereabout, you know most of our contractors were on holiday. They usually go on holidays in December. So what happened is that they couldn’t come back because of those lockdowns, which meant that a lot of progress on our contracts was slow, actually, it was halted because certain critical staff like expatriates could not come through,” he said.

“Then we also have a programme with the Japanese, JICA, on bridge maintenance, building capacity. That programme was also very much affected because most of the people who were supposed to train our staff and other people, the local authorities, were under lockdown. And because of the travel restrictions, a lot of meetings like technical meetings which were supposed to be physically held were not held, although we could have some virtual [meetings]. But you know in our environment and space it’s so technical, you need hands-on, one on one approach. So, that one also was affected.”

Mulowa said COVID-19 restrictions also affected the importation of certain materials.

He, however, said despite the pandemic affecting their operations and delaying progress on a number of projects, the agency was trying to catch up at the moment.

“Then we also had a problem on the importation of certain materials which we import because of the same restrictions. Certain materials were not delivered to site. So these are the challenges we have been grappling with around Covid but we are now trying to work in the new normal, embrace the changes and yes, we are moving. But overall Covid did affect our operations, it has delayed our progress on a number of projects but we are trying to catch up at the moment,” Mulowa said.

“Remember, I said there were some people who were on holiday in road construction, December, during the rainy season we usually scale down on our operations. You know a lot of Chinese are into construction, they have their holidays around that time, so it means they couldn’t come, they were in their own country under lockdown meaning projects were affected. So basically that was where it was affecting us.”

And Mulowa said the agency was anticipating progress because it had a healthy population workforce.

“Remember, there were also these issues of rotational, working on a rotational basis. We were not operating at 100 percent capacity. People were not allowed to meet, people were not allowed to move up freely because of the restrictions. Of course, we also had people getting sick. So already when you are in that environment the output is affected. Of course, we are anticipating progress because we have a healthy population workforce. In this event we are not just talking about RDA, we are also talking about our stakeholders, we are talking about our contractors and the like because at the moment they are enjoying good health and we are doing better,” said Mulowa.