Final Address by Professor Alex Torpiano as President

My two-year term as President of the Kamra tal-Periti has come to an end. In my address, I will report on what I consider the successes, and also on some failures, of my tenure. I must report on the absolutely positive support that I had from the Council throughout these last two years. The Council has worked very hard, and the level of participation of all members of the Council, particularly over this last year, has been very high.

As I reported last year, the Council has tried to meet every two weeks, except for the summer period, totalling about 22 Council Meetings. This excludes meetings that were held with the many official entities we need to interface with, including the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Capital Projects, the Parliamentary Secretary for Planning and the Property Market, The Executive Chairman of the Planning Authority, the head of the Building Regulations Office, the Chairman BICC, the Chairman CRPD, ERA, Civil Protection, the Land Registry and Lands Authority.

The Council also participated actively in the many consultation documents that were published by Government over the year, notably the proposal for the Malta Building and Construction Authority, and the White Paper on the Regulation of the Rental Market.


Premju E.L.Galizia

For me, the highlight of this past year was the successful launch of the first edition of the Premju E.L.Galizia, with the culmination of the awards in the Gala Dinner held last June. In my report at the last AGM, I had mentioned the Council’s intention to launch the Design Award scheme. At that stage, we had already completed a considerable amount of ground work, including the branding and name of the award, the design of the trophies, and the outline of the award categories we wished to include. But a considerable amount of work remained to realise this ambition, not least to chase sponsors to support the event, to organise the jury sessions, and of course to organise the gala dinner. Much more work than we envisaged! The event was also a considerable financial risk, but, thanks to the very hard work, especially of the sub-committee entrusted with the organisation, led by Andre’ Pizzuto, and including Lara Mifsud, Jeanette Abela, Ivynne Grixti, Sandro Cini, and Alberto Miceli, we pulled it off. The success of the event was reflected in the many positive messages we received from you, but also from the response of the general public and the media.  One of the most satisfying parts of the event, for me, was the social interaction between colleagues and competitors during the public presentation sessions at the Casino Maltese.

We have already started to work on the second edition, beginning with the Student Awards for Final Projects and Dissertations, which will continue over January and February of 2019, and, later the senior awards, and the Gala Dinner.


Website and Social Media

Another important success over the last two years has been the complete overhaul of the KTP website, and the further development of the Kamra’s social media. We have more plans for the Kamra’s website, so that we can further enhance the usefulness of this asset to our members, and to the public. Once again, I have to mention Andre Pizzuto’s efforts not only in piloting the design of the web-site, but also in persevering to resolve the complicated situation that the on-line payment of memberships via Paypal had created because of a defaulting contractor.


Professional Conduct

Last year, I reported that the Council had attacked, with determination, the big backlog of professional conduct cases that had remained unresolved for a number of years. Over the past year, we have continued with this important role, a role that is also difficult, often unpleasant, and rather thankless. Some colleagues do not like us for carrying out this role, and sometimes react negatively to our requests for clarifications. However, it must be understood that allegations about professional misconduct cannot be ignored, for the sake of the profession as a whole, but not least for the sake of the perit against whom the allegations are made. Of course, it follows that, where the allegations are proven to be true, the Council must then discipline that member, otherwise the whole process would not be credible.

Ironically, the cases that are easiest to resolve are those ethical issues that arise between colleague periti, because, in general, we find that periti understand that some mechanism of internal ethical regulation is of benefit to all periti. The issues that arise between periti and members of the public are often more difficult. In many instances, the complaints are not, strictly speaking, about unethical behaviour, but about the perception that periti have charged too much for their services, or that the service provided was not of the appropriate level.

In this context, I have to remind you once again that it is no longer possible to assume that Tariff K automatically regulates the fees payable for our services. The Law requires a signed agreement about fees, before the services are carried out. I therefore urge you to ensure that your clients are perfectly clear about the services that you will offer, and the relative remuneration that will be charged, and the stages of payment. Unfortunately, European Union legislation forbids any form of fee guidance, which might be interpreted as a limitation on free competition. I personally do not agree with this prohibition, not least because our experience is that members of the public regularly contact us to seek guidance about what the appropriate level of fees should be. We have set up a Sub-Committee to work on some form of guidance for consumers – which, we think, will not run foul of EU legislation. But the work of the Sub-Committee is complex, and not yet concluded.

One other aspect of professional ethical behaviour is that related to the advertising of our services. Advertising can range from a Facebook page to direct soliciting by letters to potential clients. Clearly these two extremes are not the same, from the ethical point of view. Forbidding any form of advertising, particularly in this age of social media and digital communication is effectively impossible – it is also contrary to the EC Directive on Services. The Council feels that an update of rules governing advertising and publicity is required, and a motion will be presented during this meeting for discussion.


Building Regulations and Standards

The Council spent a couple of years trying hard to convince Government that combining Building Regulations with Planning Authority processes was wrong, and would lead to confusion. In 2018, it was clear that our arguments had finally been accepted, and although the amended Development Planning Act still envisages the absorption of Building Regulation functions within the Planning Authority, this part of the Law has not been promulgated, and as far as we understand, will not be promulgated.

Nevertheless, the situation is far from satisfactory. Malta of 2019 still does not have a proper regime of Building Control, grounded in modern Building Regulations. The primary problem is that whilst the Planning Authority is generously funded, from the rather high fees that are paid by the actors in the construction industry, other entities which are important to the industry, such as the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, and the Building Regulations Office, remain seriously under-resourced.

This past year, we started work on a proposal for a proper Building Regulations framework for Malta, a project that was also spearheaded by Andre Pizzuto. The EGM held a couple of months ago presented the nearly finalised draft of this document, which will be shortly presented to the Parliamentary Secretary for Planning and the Property Market. In the mean time, as you are aware, a proposal was launched by Government to set up the Malta Building and Construction Authority. The Council expressed its support for this proposal, in the hope that it signified a political commitment to, finally, properly resource the Building Regulations Office, in its three main roles, namely that of researching and drafting appropriate Building Regulations, of providing a regulatory/approval process during the construction stage, and maintaining a supervisory and enforcement role after completion of construction. Our support for the proposal for the Malta Building and Construction Authority is qualified by the assumption that the proper support to the relative offices will be forthcoming; otherwise, the exercise would be just another futile one of creating another authority, without any bite.

Last year, I also referred to the issue of training and licensing of operatives. This is another role promised by the MBCA. Unfortunately, progress seems to be painfully slow, and in spite of all the nice words, the industry still labours under a serious lack of operative skills, a lack of proper licensing of operatives, and therefore an overall lack of quality in construction. The current rush to build has not helped; the profession, like developers and politicians, generally seems stuck with its head in the sand.

A number of building collapses have occurred, over this past year, which clearly betray a lack of understanding of basic construction principles by operatives, a serious problem of mis-communication, particularly with foreign operatives; and, I am sorry to say, an almost cavalier attitude by some periti on the issues of safe construction on site. In recent weeks, we have seen a number of accidents on construction sites which have led to fatalities or serious injury. We cannot absolve ourselves from these issues by thinking that health and safety is simply the role of the H&S Supervisors. If nothing else, we have a moral obligation, as experts, to ensure that risks on site are mitigated, and that unsafe construction practices by rogue or inexperienced operatives are not allowed. I really feel that the situation is currently dire.

I also think that the Kamra should launch a system of structural failure reporting, which is not intended to attribute blame, but to establish the causes of failures, so that all the profession could learn from such experiences. This system has been in place for some years in the UK, for example, and it has proved to be a very useful tool for the profession.



FEANI is a Europe-wide organisation of national organisations of engineering professions, which offers its accredited members the use of the title Eur.Ing.. The Eur.Ing title is not a European Commission engineering title, but, nevertheless, it carries considerable clout in many European countries. FEANI in Malta was, from its inception, monopolised by the Chamber of Engineers, in the sense that the Kamra did not have any formal representation on the National Monitoring Committee, in spite of the fact that we represent Civil Engineers in Malta. This year we reached an agreement with the Chamber of Engineers to address this anomaly. A national committee, with representatives from both the Chamber of Engineers and the Kamra has now been set up, under the title Inġiniera Malta, to represent the engineering profession within FEANI.


Wirtna – Our Legacy

Last year, I had talked about increasing concern with the impact that certain Planning Authority policies, or, perhaps, I should say, “interpretation of policies” was having on the built heritage of our country. I had also talked about my belief that as professionals we had a moral obligation to ensure that the built heritage assets of our country are not ruined, not even if allowed by “policy”, or demanded by our clients. The Council had taken note of the fact that there were many NGOs, scattered all over the islands, formed by people who were concerned about what was happening to our urban heritage and environment, but that these NGOs did not have the clout that, say, the development lobby has with politicians and the Planning Authority. The Council took the initiative to invite these NGOs, including Din l-Art Helwa and Flimkien ghall-Ambjent Ahjar, to form a loose alliance so that we could speak with a strong unified voice about our concerns. This was not an easy task, but in April 2018, we held a public event, under the slogan of Wirtna – Our Legacy, when a Declaration was signed by 23 entities involved in heritage management or protection, asking for changes in attitude by Government and the construction industry in general. The event was very well received by the public and the media. We strove to create a cross-party platform so that heritage protection would not be caught in the mesh of partisan politics. We were not completely successful in this; although we quickly received support from opposition political parties, it took us some time to be able to arrange a meeting with the Prime Minister, and Ministers Borg and Bonnici, to be able to discuss the issues of concern. Nevertheless, the meeting did eventually happen, and we did obtain a commitment from Government to consider some of the key proposals in our Declaration. We will all need to continue to work to convince politicians that current legislation and planning policies do not offer sufficient protection for our built heritage – and unfortunately, much of what we are offering instead of the heritage buildings  we are demolishing is plain ugly. No excuses, there, the ugliness that we are seeing around us is also our doing.

One of the outcomes of the collaboration with these NGOs was a court case launched against the Planning Authority for violating its own regulations in the case of the demolition of the ex-Sea Malta/ex-NAAFI building, and for ignoring the Ombudsman’s condemnation of the actions of the Planning Authority; the case is ongoing.


Planning Authority

Unfortunately, our relationship with Planning Authority has not improved over the last year. I wish to thank Simone Vella Lenicker for her diligent work on all issues related to the Planning Authority, not least her participation on the revived (but not reinvigorated) Users Committee. We had occasion to, once again, complain about the Planning Authority’s idea of consultation.

Although periti are the Planning Authority’s most consistent “clients”, the situation persists that we find out about changes in policy either when they are launched – such as, for example, in the recent scheme for the Restoration of Balconies for the Marsamxett area – or, by accident – such as the recent discovery (if this is what it is) that contrary to what is written in the PA documents, there is no need for a Commencement Notice for DNO’s.

We had discussions with the Planning Authority on how to solve the problem of “change of periti” procedures when a perit passes away; we still have not managed to get PA to engage with the solutions that we thought we had agreed on. We also continued to raise with the PA the sore issue of CTB’s. We made representations, even at political level, on the unfairness of how CTB’s were being interpreted; and we pressed the Planning Authority to issue clear guidelines of how to resolve the issues that were arising. We are still waiting for the agreed clarifications to be published. We still have unresolved issues about the Commencement Notices, and also on the way Planning Permit Conditions are drafted – nowadays planning conditions are like an encyclopaedia, covering every topic, but providing little holistic overview.


Periti Act

Three years ago, I returned to the Council with the primary objective to help pilot the new Periti Act through to approval. We have not yet reached this target, even though we have been talking for about 10 years. I do not know what else to say about it. The draft has long been agreed with the European Commission – in so far as the infringements that had been flagged are concerned. Negotiations with the Government side were concluded some time ago. I spoke extensively on the objectives of the amendments to the Periti Act in my 2017 AGM speech, so I will not add much today.

I can advise, however, that in November 2018 we finally met Minister Borg to try to understand his apparent reluctance to present the amended Periti Act to Cabinet, and then to Parliament. Our understanding is that the main sticking point was the Minister’s reluctance to agree to our proposals about the Professional Conduct Board, appointed by the Council, but independent of it. During this meeting, we had the opportunity to propose to him the mechanism which I had outlined as our preferred mechanism, during my 2017 AGM speech.

In summary, the system we have proposed is for Council to appoint a Professional Conduct Board comprising a pool of not less than six periti, who have held their warrant for at least 18 years, under the chairmanship of a retired judge or from among persons who have been qualified to be recommended for appointment as judges in Malta, selected by the Minister in agreement with the Kamra. Four members from this pool would be selected by the Chairman during the determination of a specific case, to ensure that there is no possibility or perception of potential conflicts of interest. In this proposed system, the KTP Council would receive any allegations of professional misconduct, and make preliminary investigations on whether the allegations represented prima facie potential professional misconduct; and would then proceed to submit the investigations to the Professional Conduct Board for determination, independently of the Council. In our meeting, the Minister appeared inclined to accept this proposal.

At this stage, I have to report to the AGM, that in his discussions with us, the Minister referred to consultations he was having, on the subject of the Periti Act, with a group of some 20/25 periti, that had been invited by the MDA to form a discussion group under its aegis. As you can expect, I did not hesitate to point out that the Council of the Kamra tal-Periti is the only entity empowered by Law to speak in the name of the profession, and that, frankly, the opinion of these periti had no relevance in the discussions between Government and the Kamra. It is, however, disappointing, to say the least, to observe that periti could be ready to undermine their own colleagues, and the organisation that their colleagues elect to represent them, by accepting to offer their opinions to the Minister directly, instead of sharing such opinions with their colleagues, in the many General Meetings held to discuss the topic, over the years. Nonetheless, they seem to feel that they have the right to speak to Government in your name.



At the end of my second term, I want to conclude with more positive things, particularly about the future work that needs to be addressed by the new Council. There are still difficult issues of liability and professional indemnity to resolve, particularly for those professionals who, under a contract of employment, with, say, design-and-build contractors, take on personal professional liability in terms of the law, but are not covered by professional indemnity insurance when they move from that employment to another one. As soon as the amended Periti Act is approved, we will have to prepare a raft of subsidiary regulations which will cover the detail of aspects of the Act, including, for example, the procedures by which a limited liability company, not owned by periti, could offer periti services, as long as the perit or periti assuming professional liability were clearly indicated in the literature of that company. We need to work on a proper syllabus for the professional experience that we ask our graduates to undertake before submitting to the Warrant examination process. We will need to work on a CPD framework, to ensure that our professionals remain up-to-date with current industry developments.

One idea that arose from a recent Design-related Workshop we held in October is that the Kamra should set up some form of Design Review Panel, which could support periti in their dealings with the Planning Authority, particularly when they had difficulties in getting high-quality contemporary architectural designs accepted by regulatory boards, which are misguidedly conservative. This is in fact an old idea that the Kamra had proposed some years ago to government to include within planning legislation. Unfortunately, that idea was distorted into the Design Advisory Committee envisaged in the Development Planning Act, which we do not feel fulfills the role that was originally envisaged in an appropriate manner.

You will have received the December issue of the Architect, which focused on the Premju E.L. Galizia. In our plans, this will be the last issue of the journal in this format. We are thinking of developing an on-line journal, which could, in a more timely fashion, report on current affairs, and converting the journal to a quarterly issue, focused on selected themes. I hope that we will also complete the transformation by changing the name, into one which more correctly represents the breadth of our profession.

These changes will be launched in 2019. The Architects’ Ordnance, which set up the first Camera degli Architetti, was promulgated in June 1919, and the first Chamber formally constituted about a year ater. Therefore mid-2019 to mid-2020 will represent our 100th Anniversary; and the new Council will be launching a series of special events to mark this important mile-stone in the history of our profession and of our Kamra.  These event will include, for example, meetings of European entities we participate in, such as ENACA and ECCE, in Malta, over this period. I sincerely hope that this Anniversary will see the profession achieve many of the things I have spoken about today.

I would like to conclude by thanking, once again, the members of the Council I had the honour of leading, for their support and commitment, starting from Simone Vella Lenicker, who, I am convinced, will make an excellent new President to the Council, Andre Pizzuto, who we have nominated for Vice-President, Amber Wismayer, who continued to contribute to the Council even as her doctoral studies demanded more of her time, Lara Mifsud, Jeanette Abela, Sandro Cini, Ivynne Grixti, Alberto Miceli, Damien Vella Lenicker, and Toni Bezzina – as well as Saviour Borg, who diligently acts as secretary in our Board Meetings, and Tony Cassar who is our evergreen Office Administrator. There are many others who have contributed to the Council’s work, whom I hesitate to mention for fear of leaving out anybody. Keep in mind, however, that the work of the Kamra cannot be undertaken solely by the eleven members of Council. If we wish, as I do, the profession to remain relevant to the industry, it is important for us to take part in the various committees and fora where our opinions can be expressed, be it BICC, or BRB, or ACE, or ECCE, or MFPA, or the Warranting Board, or UIA, or FEANI, or PA Users Committee, or the various working groups that we get invited to. The reports of the various representatives can be read on the KTP web-site.


Finally, I want to conclude by thanking you all for supporting me over these last two years. It has been an honour to represent you.