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PR 10/20 | No time for further delay

Verżjoni bil-Malti

This morning, yet another worker lost his life on a construction site following the collapse of a wall within the site. While the details of the incident are still emerging, one thing is amply clear: the construction industry is rife with systemic and fundamental deficiencies that must be addressed without further delay.

While the Kamra tal-Periti is fully cognisant of Government’s efforts in the past months to draft legislation that will bring about the much needed changes, it is evident that the lack of focus and resources is severely hampering progress in this respect. The outcome of the recommendations by the Committee appointed by the Prime Minister have still to be made public, and despite several lengthy meetings with the various stakeholders in the industry we are still far off from seeing significant results.

This situation is no longer tenable. Further delay is not an option.

On its part, after urging successive governments to bring about significant changes to the industry since 2007, the Kamra tal-Periti had published its draft proposals for A Modern Building and Construction Regulation Framework in May 2019. These were presented to all industry stakeholders, including 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 and there is therefore 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, finally recognised the need for a comprehensive reform of the building and construction industry, and committed itself to implement the Kamra’s proposals.

After having taken on board all the feedback received, the Kamra tal-Periti published the final version of its proposals in June, and were positively received by the industry.

The Kamra tal-Periti urges the Prime Minister and the Ministers responsible for the industry in all its aspects to fulfil Government’s commitments of last August without further delay. It is unacceptable that a country which aspires to portray itself as “the best in Europe” remains complacent to these tragedies which have become all too common. The country deserves better.

 

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CIR 15/20 | Breach of Legal Notice 136 of 2019 – Site Technical Officer fraud

It has come to the Kamra’s attention that a person who is not qualified to take on the role of Site Technical Officer has, on a number of occasions, presented himself to Permit Holders as being qualified to take on such role and subsequently signed the Site Responsibility Form, which was then unwittingly uploaded by the periti responsible for the respective projects.

After being alerted to this matter, the Bulding and Construction Agency (BCA) advised such person that this was unacceptable. Said person, however, persisted in trying to defraud the system by presenting Permit Holders with Forms apparently signed by, to our knoweldge, at least two different periti, however it later transpired that such periti had not signed such Forms, and that their signatures had been copied and used without their consent. This latter fraudulent action has been reported to the BCA for the necessary action to be taken.

Periti are reminded that:

  • Only persons who have been authorised by the BCA to provide the service of STO should be indicated on the relevant Forms – the list of registered persons is updated regularly and may be viewed here;
  • According to Legal Notice 136 of 2019, as amended, the Site Technical Officer shall be “nominated by the contractor and shall be accepted by the perit in charge of the project”, and that as part of its discussions with Government, the Kamra had only agreed to the requirement for periti to “accept” the STO as long as a list of registered persons is published and regularly maintained – refer to point 3.1.2 of the Letter of Commitment which Government presented to the Kamra in August 2019, and further elaborated in Ciircular 14/19.

 

In view of this situation, it is recommended that periti go through their active projects and ensure that the appointed STOs are in fact indicated on the STO register, and that such persons are aware of being indicated in this role. In case of any anomalies, periti are requested to immediately inform the BCA, copying the Kamra tal-Periti, for further action.

 

The Council cannot stress enough the importance of adherence to legislation, in view of the serious consequences that may arise in cases of incidents on construction sites.

Yours sincerely,

Simone Vella Lenicker
President

 

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PR 08/20 | A Modern Building and Construction Regulation Framework

Verżjoni bil-Malti

In May 2019, the Kamra tal-Periti had published its draft proposals for A Modern Building and Construction Regulation Framework. These were presented to all industry stakeholders, including 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 and there is therefore 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, finally recognised the need for a comprehensive reform of the building and construction industry, and committed itself to implement the Kamra’s proposals.

After having taken on board all the feedback received over the past 12 months, the Kamra tal-Periti has now published the final version of its proposals. These are focused around ten main principles, namely:

  1. The separation of planning permit and building permit processes;
  2. Clear well-organised regulatory processes designed to promote public safety and quality, in the interest of the consumer, rather than being focused on ascribing blame post-accident;
  3. Clear distinction between the regulations governing building (the permanent works) and those governing construction processes and temporary works;
  4. The proposed Building and Construction Authority (BCA) is to take on the consolidated role of the assessment of buildings, building authorisations, enforcement, and monitoring of the construction processes, with the 22 public entities hitherto entrusted with the different areas of interest, becoming key stakeholders in the drafting of regulations and guidance documents;
  5. Major projects and public buildings to be subjected to an independent review, particularly in terms of structural design and fire engineering through the introduction of a new professional figure (Engineering Auditor);
  6. Contractors are to have the specific skills required, and to be classified and licensed according to such skills – they will be solely responsible for the process of construction, including temporary works, and would therefore have full possession of construction sites for the duration of the works;
  7. The enforcement of construction regulations to be delegated to private service providers – referred to as Building and Construction Inspectors (BCIs) – licensed by the BCA;
  8. Contractors to be required to certify that the executed works comply with the design instructions, and with the requirements of the Construction Products Directive;
  9. The construction phase will be concluded by the issuance by the BCA of a Compliance Certificate, which, inter alia, authorises that the building can be brought into use; and
  10. Post-occupancy checks and audits to be undertaken as predetermined by the BCA to ensure the continued compliance of the structure with building regulations.

The launch of these proposals is not the end of a process. It is the beginning of a new era in the building and construction industry. COVID-19 has highlighted the lack of sustainability of our previous ways – now is the perfect opportunity to look to the future with a new vision … a vision that is more sustainable, that still focuses on economic progress but that places more emphasis on safety and quality.

 

The Kamra tal-Periti is fully committed to ensure that these proposals are implemented and assures Government of its full cooperation in achieving this leap forward, bringing the industry firmly and squarely into the 21st century.

 

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PR 05/20 | Arraignments indicative of confused and overlapping responsibilities

Verżjoni bil-Malti

Last month’s incident, which claimed the life of Miriam Pace, was a stark reminder that the crisis faced by the building industry is far from over, and has not been resolved through the hastily drafted regulations that were brought into force in July 2019. While commending the swift manner in which the authorities have proceeded in this case, the Kamra tal-Periti cannot but reiterate its position, which has consistently remained strongly opposed to the afore-mentioned regulations because they do not guarantee public safety, as clearly evidenced by the Hamrun tragedy. All these regulations were designed to do is apportion blame after an accident takes place, while concurrently shifting it away from developers and contractors, who remain unregulated to this day. Instead they should have been focused on preventing such accidents from happening in the first place.

Yesterday’s arraignments are a clear demonstration of how increasingly complicated and confused the lines of responsibility have become with the coming into force of the new regulations. Indeed, the Court will now have to establish the responsibilities of four different roles, including the STO role which did not exist before. Inevitably, defence lawyers will thrive in this weak regulatory framework.

The Kamra tal-Periti is perplexed by the statement issued yesterday by the Malta Developers’ Association that the new regulations introduced last summer provided “clear parameters to determine who was responsible for such incidents”. It appears that this was the primary focus of the MDA, rather than ensuring public safety, which has always been the paramount concern of the Kamra.

Indeed, the Kamra fully agrees with the statement which Marthese Portelli, now director-general of MDA, had made at the time the regulations were published, wherein she characterised them as “rushed decision-making [which] has set nobody’s mind at ease”.

The Kamra looks forward to the implementation of its building and construction regulation framework which Government had committed to start implementing as from October 2019. This framework was meanwhile endorsed by all the relevant stakeholders and presented to the Committee of Experts appointed recently by the Prime Minister. Its implementation will ensure that the construction industry will finally modernise itself and be brought in line with practices adopted in developed countries.

The Kamra tal-Periti is fully committed to make sure this happens without further delay. Delays in introducing the appropriate legislation will only prolong the public’s exposure to health and safety risks.

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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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.