,

CIR 05/20 | COVID-19 Planning Commission Hearings // Update 3

As you are aware, Planning Commission hearings were cancelled last week following recommendations by the Superintendent of Public Health to exercise social distancing and cancel non-essential meetings. However, over the weekend periti and applicants began receiving notifications that hearings were to take place this week.

The Council immediately sought clarifications from Government, particularly in view of the fact that LN 75 of 2020 prohibited the hearings from proceeding. Discussions were held with Minister Aaron Farrugia and with the Planning Authority about the reasons why such a decision was taken, given the risks to periti and their clients.

Council submitted a protocol to be followed for the resumption of hearings, including the use of videoconferencing technology, which will ensure this can be done without exposing periti and their clients. The Kamra’s proposals are being actively considered by Minister Farrugia and the Planning Authority. Meanwhile it is noted that the prohibition imposed by LN 75 of 2020 has now been lifted through the coming into force of LN 97 of 2020.

The Council is confident that its proposals will be taken on board, and reiterates its commitment to ensure that the processes to be adopted will be implemented smoothly and efficiently, and that the health and safety of all involved is ensured.

 

Perit Simone Vella Lenicker
President

 

,

PR 04/20 | Quality of life and public safety should under pin future of construction industry

Verżjoni bil-Malti

The Kamra tal-Periti met with Prime Minister Robert Abela, Minister Aaron Farrugia, Minister Ian Borg and Parliamentary Secretary Chris Agius yesterday afternoon to discuss the two public safety crises that have engulfed our country: the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the lack of adequate regulation in the construction industry, which recently led to the premature demise of Miriam Pace.

 

Construction industry crisis

On the construction industry crisis, Kamra tal-Periti President, Simone Vella Lenicker, acknowledged the role of some members of the profession. She also acknowledged the fact that Government had recognised the need for change, which it committed to implementing in the Letter of Commitment signed in August 2019. This outlined a number of reforms which the Kamra has been striving for, including:

  • The licensing and classification of contractors by the State to ensure they are qualified to shoulder their responsibilities, and give the public and consumers peace of mind;
  • The consolidation of laws and regulations whose remit is scattered in 22 different public entities;
  • The introduction of regulations covering the design of permanent works which would fall under the responsibility of periti and engineers, and the execution of temporary works which would fall under the responsibility of contractors, thereby providing simplicity and clarity of the roles within the industry;
  • The enactment of the long-overdue amendments to the Periti Act.

Vella Lenicker welcomed the Prime Minister’s statement in Parliament that responsibilities on site should follow the Civil Code, which underscores the symmetric responsibilities of periti and contractors. To this end, she called on Government to revise LN 136 of 2019 to eliminate the ambiguities about site responsibilities that it brought about.

Government must also look at the issues besetting the industry in a holistic and comprehensive manner, as the Kamra tal-Periti has been calling for since 2007. Among these issues was the ill-advised obsession of the Planning Authority to insist on the indiscriminate provision of underground carparking, which is leading to the dangerous practice of excavating between party walls in narrow sites, as well as causing wider problems of waste management, traffic, air pollution and a rapid deterioration of the quality of life of Malta’s citizens.

Prime Minister Abela welcomed the Kamra’s contributions and detailed recommendations and looked forward to collaborating further with the Kamra in introducing the necessary reforms in the industry.

 

COVID-19 Pandemic

Vella Lenicker outlined the profession’s concerns about the risks to public safety should a national lockdown be announced suddenly. She explained that it is not advisable to abruptly shut down all construction sites, as some may present a greater risk to public safety if they are abandoned without the necessary precautions being put in place to ensure structural stability. She also stated that there may also be instances where properties may require urgent maintenance or repairs during the lockdown period, and provisions should be made for such situations.

It was agreed that, although there is no indication as yet from the public health authorities that a lockdown is imminent, separate discussions would be held with the relevant Ministries to prepare for such an eventuality should it arise.

 

 

 

,

CIR 04/20 | COVID-19 Precautionary Measures in view of potential site closures // Update 2

The COVID-19 situation in Malta is, as you are aware, progressing, with local transmissions now being recorded. While there is no official indication of a potential lockdown situation as at the time of writing, it is important that we prepare ourselves for this eventuality.

The Kamra tal-Periti will issue Directives as required and as the situation evolves.

 

STAGE 1: SOCIAL DISTANCING FOR PERITI

Reference is to be made to the Kamra’s Circular 03/2020 which proposes various measures to be taken by your office to practise social distancing, as recommended by the Authorities. The Kamra notes with satisfaction that many offices have already implemented these measures. Following a survey carried out across the profession, to which 105 offices submitted their replies by 1pm on the 17th March 2020, the following results were registered:

You are encouraged to continue putting these measures into effect, and to encourage your colleagues and other professionals to do the same.

 

STAGE 2: IDENTIFICATION OF OPEN SITES

It is recommended that you immediately carry out a preliminary risk assessment of open sites under your supervision, and that you classify them as follows:

  1. Sites which currently involve primarily Demolition and/or Site Clearance Works
  2. Sites which currently involve primarily Excavation Works
  3. Sites which currently involve primarily Construction Works
  4. Sites which currently involve primarily Works related to Finishes and Services

 

For each of the above Classifications, identify the risks that may arise in the hypothetical scenario of a Government-imposed instantaneous lockdown of the construction industry, as follows:

  1. Risk to structural stability of site and/or to adjacent parties*
  2. Risk of significant damage to site and/or to adjacent parties*
  3. Risk of minor damage to site and/or adjacent parties*
  4. No risk to site and/or adjacent parties*

* “adjacent parties” includes private third parties and their property, the general public, and/or public property

 

The periti who responded to the survey are responsible for 725 active sites. The type of works currently being undertaken are primarily as follows:

It is recommended that all efforts are focussed on those works which pose a risk to the site and/or to adjacent parties during this current Stage, in order to minimise such risks pending further notices from Government regarding a potential lockdown.

 

In all cases of ongoing works, it is recommended that you communicate with your Client,  their appointed Contractor/s and Project Supervisors (in terms of LN 88 of 2018), in order to assess the evolving situation and to identify the risks, if any, in terms of potential spread of the virus on the site itself. This should include confirmation in writing from all persons on site that they have not travelled in the past three weeks, and that they have not been in contact with persons who travelled in the past three weeks – in case of persons who do not meet these criteria, request that these are not allowed to access the site, and that they follow the measures imposed by Government regarding self-quarantine. In case of non-compliance, report to the Commissioner of Police on 2122 4001-9 or pulizija@gov.mt​

 

If works are being carried out in confined spaces, and these can be postponed, liaise with the Client and the contractor accordingly in the interest of public health and safety.

It is also recommended that, together with the Client, Contractor/s and Project Supervisor, you prioritise those works that may pose a threat to the site itself and/or to adjacent third parties, including works relating to water-tightness.

 

It is also recommended that, in agreement with the Client, you postpone the commencement date of any new works until after the pandemic is declared to be over.

 

STAGE 3: LOCKDOWN SITUATION

Although no indication has been given by Government of an immediate lockdown situation that would affect the industry, it is nevertheless important to be prepared for such eventuality.

 

The Council of the Kamra tal-Periti has communicated with Government in this regard and is awaiting feedback. The Council will update you as soon as possible in this respect.

 

Perit Simone Vella Lenicker
President

 

,

CIR 03/20 | COVID-19 Precautionary Measures // Update 1

The Council of the Kamra tal-Periti advises all periti and their staff to follow all instructions issued daily by the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Directorate. These can be viewed online here.

 

Below please find additional precautionary measures that can be taken to limit the potential for spread of the virus, including instructions issued by the various Authorities and Departments with which we deal on a daily basis.

The Council will continue to keep you updated regularly through its Facebook page and through the Periti Discussion Board. Circulars will be issued as and when necessary. We will be doing our best to ensure that lines of communication with the profession remain open.

 

You are reminded that any specific queries may be addressed to us through info@kamratalperiti.org.

 

Perit Simone Vella Lenicker

President

 

  1. Practise Social Distancing

 

Apart from the restrictions imposed by Government, it is highly recommended that periti employ measures of social distancing. This is a measure that helps to prevent a sharp peak of infections, known as flattening the epidemic curve, and helps avoid healthcare services being overwhelmed.

 

These measures may include:

  • Cancellation of non-essential meetings, or seeking alternative means of holding such meetings through digital means;
  • Asking clients and others not to visit your office unless absolutely necessary, and in such case to follow any measures put in place by your office;
  • Require that any members of staff who experience typical coronavirus symptoms (fatigue, coughing, shortness of breath, and fever) to stay at home until advised by a medical practitioner that they may return to work;
  • Observe the recommendations of the Occupational Health and Safety Authority regarding measures to be taken at places of work – see here;
  • Consider working remotely for the next week, and limiting your opening hours to the bare essential;
  • Communicate with your clients via email or other digital means in order to update them on all the platforms through which you may be contacted (email, social media, digital communication tools, etc).

 

 

  1. Observe the measures put in place by various Authorities and Departments

 

Various Authority and Departments with which we interact on a daily basis have put into place a number of measures. These include the Planning Authority, the Building and Construction Agency, the Environment and Planning Review Tribunal, the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage and the Commission for the Rights of Persons with Disability. These have been collated into one document which you may easily download and distribute to your colleagues, clients, contractors and other consultants. The content of this document is correct as at 13th March 2020.

 

You are requested to be on the lookout for subsequent updates on the respective websites and social media pages of the respective Authorities and Departments.

 

With regard to Planning Commission, Planning Board and Environment and Planning Review Tribunal sittings, the Council is in contact with the relevant officials and discussions are under way regarding the possibility for suspension of all sittings – this will require the implementation of legislative measures to also suspend all applicable timeframes.

 

 

 

  1. Precautionary measures on construction sites

 

It is recommended that you undertake the following precautionary measures with respect to ongoing works on construction sites:

  • Contact the Project Supervisor (in terms of LN 88 of 2018) and request that a risk assessment is carried out to ensure that general protective measures relating to the limitation of spread of the coronavirus are in place;
  • Request that the Client, all contractors, and the Project Supervisor confirm in writing that none of their staff and/or representatives present on the site have travelled in the past three weeks, or have been in contact with persons who travelled in the past three weeks – in case of persons who do not meet these criteria, request that these are not allowed to access the site, and that they follow the measures imposed by Government;
  • If works are being carried out in confined spaces, and these can be postponed, liaise with the Client and the contractor accordingly in the interest of public health and safety.

 

  1. Preparing for additional measures

The situation is developing by the day. So far, all reported cases have been imported through travel, and no cases of local transmission have been detected.

The Kamra tal-Periti will continue to monitor the situation. It is nevertheless recommended that you prepare yourself for potential new and restrictive measures in the coming days. In view of this it is recommended that you:

  • Postpone the commencement date of any new works until after the pandemic is declared to be over;
  • Keep your workplace clean and hygienic, and ensure good ventilation;
  • Avoid travelling;
  • Develop a plan of what to do if one of your office colleagues or any one of the people on a construction site becomes ill;
  • Promote remote working and ensure that you have the necessary IT support;
  • Keep open lines of communication with your clients, appointed contractors and consultants on your projects in order to avoid unnecessary meetings and to ensure that all are remaining vigilant at this time;
  • Observe the recommendations of the OHSA on additional measures to be taken at the workplace as outlined here.

 

 

,

CIR 02/20 | COVID-19 Precautionary Measures

In light of the circumstances and directives published by the health authorities regarding Covid-19, members are advised to act in a responsible manner and take the necessary precautions to mitigate spread.

Specifically, attention should be given to restrict meetings and particularly to avoid interactions with persons who have travelled or who have been in contact with those who have travelled over the last fortnight. You are encouraged to utilise alternative means of communication.

The Kamra tal-Periti shall be issuing further guidance as needed. Meanwhile, for further information please follow the Ministry of Health’s official website linked below.

 

Perit Simone Vella Lenicker

President

 

,

PR 03/20 | Reforming the building industry

Verżjoni bil-Malti

Prime Minister Dr Robert Abela yesterday announced the setting up of a panel of experts tasked with reviewing the current suite of building and construction regulations, and to make its recommendations directly to him on the changes that are required to ensure that the construction industry is better regulated in the interest of public safety.

The Kamra’s proposals for A Modern Building and Construction Regulation Framework for Malta, which were published in May 2019 after two years of research, already present an in-depth analysis of the grossly inadequate building and construction regime currently in place in its first three chapters, including the absence of registration, licensing and training of contractors and labourers.

The document, which was formulated by a team of experts in the field appointed by the Kamra, constitutes a comprehensive and thorough review of the current situation, analyses the problems, and provides solutions which are also informed by research on systems which have been tried and tested in other countries. The Kamra’s proposals were unanimously approved by the profession at an Extraordinary General Meeting held in June 2019.

This document was subsequently presented to the key stakeholders, namely the Chamber of Engineers, the Chamber of Commerce, the Building Industry Consultative Council, the Building Regulation Board, the Building Regulation Office, the Building and Construction Agency, the Planning Authority, the Malta Developers’ Association, and the Malta Insurers Association. All these entities and organisations endorsed the Kamra’s proposals. There is industry-wide consensus that such proposals are both necessary and desirable.

The proposals were also presented to the European Commission and the Opposition, as well as to Government which, through a Letter of Commitment issued in August 2019, recognised the need for a comprehensive reform of the building and construction industry, and committed itself to implement the Kamra’s proposals.

The Kamra tal-Periti therefore invites the panel to review its document to ensure that no time is wasted in proceeding with the necessary reforms.

 

 

 

,

PR 02/20 | Crisis is far from over

Verżjoni bil-Malti

The Kamra tal-Periti is deeply saddened by Monday’s tragedy which prematurely claimed the life of Miriam Pace, forever shattering her family’s serenity as a result of yet another serious construction incident. The Kamra tal-Periti expresses its heartfelt condolences to the victim’s family.

It is painfully clear that the crisis that befell the building and construction industry last year has not been resolved through the hastily drafted regulations that were brought into force in July 2019.

The calls which the Kamra has been making since 2007 for a comprehensive reform of the construction industry have regrettably not been heeded. It took the three collapses that occurred in quick succession in 2019 for the Kamra tal-Periti to eventually secure a written commitment from Government to implement its three main demands for reform in the interest of public safety.

The first reform consists in the setting up of the Building and Construction Authority, that will be tasked with implementing the proposed building and construction regulation framework “A Modern Building and Construction Regulation Framework for Malta published by the Kamra tal-Periti in May 2019. This framework focussed on a number of principles including:

  • The consolidation under the new Authority of the regulatory functions currently dispersed in at least 24 government departments and authorities;
  • The issuance of a comprehensive set of building and construction regulations in line with those in force in other European countries;
  • The obligatory registration, licensing and classification of contractors and skilled labourers, coupled with rigorous training and education.

The second reform is the promulgation of a revised law to regulate periti to ensure that the profession can modernise itself, that the Kamra’s role to hold warrant holders accountable is strengthened, and that mandatory professional indemnity insurance and continuous professional development are introduced, among other important measures.

The third demand consisted in the repeal of LN 136 of 2019 as part of the overhaul of the regulatory framework. The Kamra has consistently maintained that the regulations brought into force last year did not adequately address the crisis, but rather made the situation worse by adding further confusion on the roles and responsibilities on construction sites.

Despite Government’s commitment in writing to take on the necessary measures, the much-needed reforms have not as yet been implemented. Some initial progress has been registered through the setting up of the Building and Construction Agency, which remains however severely under-resourced and incapable of tackling the complexities of the building industry. There has been little progress in all other areas.

Various sectors such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and gaming have received Government’s deserved attention over recent years, yet the construction industry, which is one of the main contributors to the country’s GDP, remains the most unregulated one, claiming the lives of innocent persons on an all too regular basis.

Government is called upon to demonstrate firm resolve to urgently but diligently bring about the necessary reforms.

The Kamra remains committed to ensure that the profession acts with utmost diligence and to assist Government in implementing the overdue reforms, and to offer its support and technical resources to Government to ensure that its reform proposals, which received strong support from all industry stakeholders, are brought into force as quickly as possible in the interest of public safety.

 

 

 

,

PR 01/20 | High expectations of new Administration

Verżjoni bil-Malti

On the occasion of his recent election as Leader of the Partit Laburista, and his subsequent appointment as Prime Minister, the Council of the Kamra tal-Periti has written to the Honourable Robert Abela to congratulate him and commend him for his readiness to serve the nation at this most delicate moment in its history. The Council encouraged Dr Abela to tackle the major challenges of rebuilding the State’s institutions and the country’s good reputation, and of reuniting a sorely divided nation.

All sectors of society expect much of the incoming Prime Minister and the new Administration, including that they will not shirk from introducing the necessary modernising reforms in the State’s institutions, with procedures and regulations that are appropriate for a civilised, developed and respected nation.

The Council of the Kamra tal-Periti shares the high expectations from all professional bodies, constituted bodies and others that Dr Abela’s tenure will ensure a tangibly honest way of doing politics in Malta, at all levels, with people of integrity being entrusted with responsibility for our institutions. It is only in this way that all sectors of society can benefit equally.

The Kamra tal-Periti notes with satisfaction some potentially significant administrative changes announced last week, that appear to herald a very welcome departure from the indifference towards our environment, and a more sensitive approach to the several environmental and social issues which require urgent attention today and over the coming years.

Foremost amongst the new measures is the decision to place planning, environment and climate change within one portfolio under the responsibility of Minister Aaron Farrugia, in a bid to strengthen synergies and realign the balance between the oftentimes opposing priorities of the construction industry and the quality of our environment. The appointment of Minister Carmelo Abela within the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for sustainable development is also noteworthy, and hopefully announces a genuine commitment by the Prime Minister himself to place social and environmental sustainability high on the national agenda, at par with economic growth.

The clear separation between construction and planning is also an important step in the right direction. The Kamra tal-Periti has lobbied hard for several years for the two processes to be distinct and separate. Detailed discussions on this topic have been held over the past two years with Minister Ian Borg and Parliamentary Secretary Chris Agius. The convergence of views on this matter is therefore noted with satisfaction, and the Kamra augurs further and speedy progress on this matter.

For the last 100 years, the Kamra tal-Periti has been entrusted by the State with ensuring the progress and good standing of the profession. The Council is committed to ensure that high ethical standards are upheld by its members, and that its principles are promoted throughout the whole of the construction sector. It looks forward to a close collaboration with the new Administration to ensure the sustainability of the sector in tandem with the natural and cultural environment and to promote higher standards of quality and design in all matters related to the construction industry.

 

 

,

PR 35/19 | Mediocrity and greed must be overcome

Verżjoni bil-Malti

The Kamra tal-Periti held its Annual General Meeting on the 6th December 2019 at the Catholic Institute in Floriana.

Perit Simone Vella Lenicker, President of the Kamra tal-Periti, described the past twelve months as “extraordinary”. The Council had set itself an ambitious set of targets for 2019, which it worked hard to achieve despite the crisis suffered by the profession and the industry over the summer months following the collapse of a number of buildings, the subsequent halt of all demolition and excavation works, and the ensuing hasty introduction of new regulations which did not address the core problems that characterise the industry.

She outlined that substantial progress had been made on the draft amendments to the Periti Act, and that the Kamra’s proposals for a new Building and Construction Regulation Framework had been positively received by all the industry stakeholders. She also referred to the various changes in the industry that the Kamra insisted upon over the past year, and which Government has committed to effect through a Letter of Commitment presented to the Kamra tal-Periti in August. The Council will continue to work on these aspects over the coming months with a view towards achieving the much needed legislative changes in the shortest time possible.

Perit Vella Lenicker acknowledged that the challenges of the past year had a serious impact on the profession. “The current political situation and the serious challenges which our industry will be facing in the coming months have thrown an even heavier shadow over us as individuals, as a profession and as an industry.” The Council is nevertheless committed, with the support of the profession, to strive “to achieve higher levels of service, and to pull the industry out of the throes of the mediocrity and greed which have engulfed it.

 

 

Scroll through gallery of AGM 2019

 

 

,

PR 34/19 | Democratic expression and public space

Verżjoni bil-Malti

The Barcelona Declaration on Public Spaces for Habitat III (2016 – United Nations), of which Malta is a signatory, stresses people’s right to “stake a claim on the city” which implies the need to “respect and protect a number of rights and freedoms, such as the right to freedom of expression and assembly, the right to information, consultation and participation in decision-making processes.

Politics and public space have an intimate relationship – both deal with public life, the relationships we have with others, how we live and interact with each other. Public spaces are the stage of public life; they are the places where we congregate to celebrate, to protest, to meet, to trade, to seek inspiration and tranquillity. We must ensure that our public spaces sustain our quality of life and our culture, and that they express what our society considers to be important.

Although the Kamra tal-Periti appreciates the need to ensure the security and safety of all citizens, it is disturbed by the grossly impeded use of public space and the wholly disproportionate occupation of Freedom Square.

Renzo Piano’s Parliament Building and the surrounding urban space were designed to promote transparency of the democratic processes. The multiple layers of barriers that are being erected around this building emphasise the gap between the elected and the electorate: a gap which the architectural and urban design sought to eradicate.

The protests taking place in Freedom Square are an expression of public sentiment and should not be unduly restricted.

“When public space is eroded, our civic culture suffers, even our democracy” – Richard Rogers