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PR 06/21 | Human decency before profit

Verżjoni bil-Malti

The construction industry has hit yet another low today should reports carried in the local press be confirmed regarding an as-yet unnamed contractor having unceremoniously dumped a seriously injured worker on the side of a deserted road.

As we discuss ambitious climate change targets, low carbon strategy, and the New Bauhaus Initiative, this incident is a stark reminder that some industry operators are yet to reach basic levels of responsible behaviour grounded in humanity and compassion.

Until contractors are required to possess a licence to operate, which among other things would ensure that they adhere to construction regulations and provide lawful employment, we will never make the quality leap we require. With a licensing regime finally in place, it would be expected that such a contractor would lose said licence and would be unable to operate again should such allegations be confirmed.

The Kamra tal-Periti is aware that the discussion on draft regulations on the licensing of contractors are scheduled to resume at BICC shortly, after having been on hold since May 2019. The Kamra shall be insisting that the new licensing regulations include provisions sanctioning or barring any contractors who were found to be responsible for serious injury or the loss of life of their workmen or neighbours through negligence prior to their coming into force.

 

The industry must send a strong signal to “cowboy” operators that all its main stakeholders shall adopt a zero-tolerance policy towards behaviour which is inhumane, exploitative, and negligent to its labour force.

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PR 05/21 | The revocation of warrants on criminal conviction and the role of the Kamra tal-Periti

Verżjoni bil-Malti

Following the reading of Magistrate Mifsud’s sentence regarding the role of Perit Roderick Camilleri and Perit Anthony Mangion in the tragic death of Miriam Pace, it is pertinent to inform the public about relevant aspects of the law and the role of the Kamra tal-Periti in this regard.

 

Suspension or Revocation of Warrants and Memberships

The most frequent question that the Kamra is receiving from media houses is whether the convicted periti are members of the Kamra and, if so, whether it intends suspending their membership. There are a number of points that need to be clarified for the benefit of the public on this point:

 

1. The Kamra is not an association, a club or a union for architects and civil engineers. It is set up by Law as a regulating body of the profession and to act as an official consultant to the State on matters related to the industry.

2. All members of the profession form part of the Kamra tal-Periti automatically, are subject to its disciplinary procedures, and are obliged to follow its directives and code of conduct.

3. Expulsion from the Kamra would entail expulsion from the profession. Such an expulsion can only happen following the suspension or revocation of a perit’s warrant in accordance with the law. It is indeed the Council’s role to investigate any misconduct of periti and to establish adequate disciplinary measures that may be necessary to protect the public and the reputation of the profession. With the passing of the new Periti Act, the Council will also have the power, after carrying out an investigation, to delegate the conduct of the disciplinary hearings to a Periti Professional Conduct Board.

4. Any disciplinary decision of the Council of the Kamra can be appealed before the Court of Appeal, and thus the Council acts as a quasi-judicial body. In this respect, the Council is obliged to adhere to the principles of natural justice enshrined in the Constitution. These include the right to a fair hearing. Failure to abide by these principles would invalidate any disciplinary decision of the Kamra tal-Periti on appeal.

5. To ensure a fair hearing, the Kamra cannot pronounce itself publicly on the merits of a case until its disciplinary proceedings are finalised. If it does, it would prejudice the relative conduct proceedings.

6. It is also pertinent to point out that a perit can lose his or her warrant in one of two ways:

  • Through a decision of the Council, and eventually of the Professional Conduct Board; or
  • Through a criminal conviction with a prison term of at least one year, even if suspended.

In the latter case, the revocation would be automatic and would not require a specific pronouncement on this point in the judgement.

The role of the Periti Warranting Board is to execute the Council’s or the Court’s decision, as applicable, and has no discretionary powers on these matters.

7. One of the principles of natural justice is non bis in idem; i.e., no legal action can be instituted twice for the same cause of action. In view of this, the Council was unable to proceed with its investigation given that the specific charges were not made known to the Kamra until today.

8. In March 2021, the Court had denied the Kamra’s request to be granted special access to the magisterial inquiry to extract any relevant information for its disciplinary investigation.

9. The Kamra cannot take any ulterior disciplinary measures on points already decided upon by the Criminal Court, as confirmed by its legal consultants and the Office of the Attorney General.

 

 

 

What happens next?

The two investigations which had been hitherto suspended due to the criminal proceedings, will be reopened by the Council to determine the following points:

  1. Establish whether the prosecution or the convicted parties will file an appeal against the judgement. If so, the Council will need to await its outcome and proceed accordingly;
  2. Analyse the charges and judgement to establish whether there are any disciplinary merits not covered by the criminal case, including breach of the code of conduct, breach of a directive of the Kamra, professional misconduct or negligence, and bringing the profession into disrepute.

 

Beyond the merits of the criminal and disciplinary proceedings, the testimony brought before the Criminal Court, particularly that of the Court-appointed experts, has exposed serious flaws within the regulation of the industry that need to be addressed in earnest and with competence. The Kamra shall also continue monitoring the criminal proceedings instituted against the contractor and the worker involved to determine whether they bring to the fore any further systemic failures within the existing chaotic regulatory framework governing the industry.

The Kamra has been campaigning on the need for reforms for several years, and has indeed published its own detailed proposals for reform in May 2019 in line with its legal and moral obligations to advise the State on how best to safeguard the public interest.

More recently, it launched a public consultation on its redraft of the infamous Legal Notice 136 of 2019, which was heavily criticised during the criminal proceedings, and shall shortly be publishing the final amended version having taken on board the feedback it received.

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Revision of Avoidance of Damage to Third Party Property Regulations – Public Consultation

The Kamra tal-Periti has drafted a revision to LN 136 of 2019 – Avoidance of Damage to Third Party Property Regulations – which seeks to address all the recommendations of the Building Industry Technical Committee’s report dated April 2020 and tabled in Parliament by the Prime Minister on 20th January 2021.

The main features of this redraft include:

  1. The distinction between works specifications and method statements
  2. The revision of the role and qualifications of Site Technical Officers
  3. The elimination of provisions that place periti in positions of conflict of interest by having more than one employer
  4. The distinction between tortious and contractual liability, facilitating immediate compensation of damages to third-parties
  5. The introduction of an equitable system for reimbursement of expenses incurred by third parties in reviewing project documentation

The proposed regulations are intended to be brought into force in the short-term, until more comprehensive and better structured building and construction regulations, and the equivalent of the UK’s Party Wall Act are brought into force.

Members of the profession and the public are welcome to submit their feedback on info@kamratalperiti.org by Friday 30th April 2021 at 6pm.

 

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PR 03/21 | KTP welcomes the passing of the Periti Act and BCA Act by Parliament

Verżjoni bil-Malti

The Kamra tal-Periti is deeply satisfied that after an interminable struggle lasting fourteen years and spanning five administrations, the law regulating the profession of periti has been unanimously approved in Parliament yesterday evening.

The new Periti Act will allow for a long-overdue modernisation of the profession and the strengthening of the Kamra’s role in regulating the profession.

One of the main the changes the new Act will bring about is the introduction of Certificates to Practise issued annually by the Kamra to warrant holders providing services to the public and therefore carrying liability for their services. The issuance of Certificates to Practise will be conditional to warrant holders possessing professional indemnity insurance or another form of adequate protective cover and minimum continuous professional development training. The possessors of the Certificate to Practise, whether in the private or public sector, will also be issued with an official professional stamp as a mark of recognition for their clients, and public and private institutions receiving official documentation from periti. This reform will serve to raise the bar and professionalism of warrant holders to the benefit of the wider public and the profession itself.

Another key change is the introduction of two lists within the warrant of Periti – the Perit Arkitett and Periti Inġiniera Ċivili. Apart from addressing infringement procedures opened by the European Commission against Malta about the previous Periti Act, this innovation creates a distinction between the professional qualification routes for architects and civil engineers and marks the beginning of a transition from generalists to specialists in various fields of practice. This distinction is expected to greatly benefit the quality of our built environment and the quality of construction.

Of great importance to the Kamra, of course, is the consolidation of the Kamra’s role as the regulator and sole representative body of periti in Malta. It also introduces the Periti Professional Conduct Board, a new body to which professional conduct cases can be delegated by the Council of the Kamra to improve its efficiency and guarantee a speedier due process for all parties concerned.

This Act was passed during the Kamra’s centenary year. It was indeed just over a hundred years ago, as the country was exiting another pandemic, that the Kamra was set up following a spate of building collapses. The Kamra has evolved over the past one hundred years but remains a widely trusted and respected institution that not only looks after the interests of the profession but also seeks to protect the common good in all its efforts.

With the passing of this Act, the Kamra is now in a position to gradually begin rolling out long-overdue reforms within the profession that depended on the new Periti Act. These reforms will bring the profession firmly into the 21st Century. It will also help begin to address the serious problems within the construction industry and our built environment.

 

The Kamra tal-Periti also strongly welcomes the concurrent passing of the Building and Construction Authority Act. While the Periti Act and the Kamra tal-Periti will serve to underpin the reform of the building and construction industry, this new authority will serve as its foundation.

Most of the concerns raised by the Kamra in recent weeks about the Bill have been addressed in Parliament through amendments brought forward by Government and Opposition.

There is still a significant amount of work to be done to align Malta’s building and construction industry with that of our European partners. However, the Kamra remains resolved to support Government in the drafting of regulations and their implementation to ensure that the public’s health and safety and quality of life are not only protected but enhanced.

 

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Press Conference about the BCA Act

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PR 01/21 | KTP welcomes adoption of its proposals during parliamentary speech introducing Construction Bill

Verżjoni bil-Malti

The Kamra tal-Periti recognises yesterday’s introduction in Parliament of the Bill to establish the Building and Construction Authority as the achievement of a long-awaited milestone. It commends Parliamentary Secretary Chris Agius for this important step and pledges its full cooperation towards a successful implementation.

The Kamra is encouraged by the fact that the Bill was clearly influenced by its proposal document and the presentation given to the Prime Minister’s Technical Committee last March, as evidenced by the adoption, at least in principle, of several of its recommendations.

Indeed, Hon. Agius echoed in his speech almost every principle contained in the Kamra’s proposal document: A Modern Building and Construction Regulation Framework for Malta. This was a highly rewarding moment for the Kamra as well as the Profession, which had endorsed the Kamra’s framework at three consecutive General Meetings.

The Kamra shall be proposing additions to the Bill to emphasise the need for separation in the Act between building regulations, which govern design standards falling within the remit of architects and engineers, and construction regulations, which govern construction safety, methodology, and processes falling under the responsibility of contractors.

This pertinent differentiation is an integral part of the ten fundamental principles set out in the Kamra’s framework document and was agreed to by Government in its Letter of Commitment of 2nd August 2019. The Kamra looks forward to collaborating with Government in the coming days in order to address this with a view to ensuring that our country can be supported with the best possible legislation in the years ahead: this in the interest of public safety.

It must be stressed, however, that the passing of this Bill represents the first of a number of milestones in the long journey the industry faces in modernising and reaching European standards.

The success of this journey will depend on the quality of the regulations and subsidiary legislation that will follow this Act. The Kamra augurs that the focus of these regulations and subsidiary legislation will be placed on accident prevention in the interest of public safety, rather than simply listing stakeholders’ responsibilities to ascribe blame in the aftermath of an incident. To this end, the Profession eagerly anticipates the introduction of competent systems based on international best practices which envisage building control processes aimed at preventing accidents by means of rigorous in-built checks-and-balances, as well as the licensing of unregulated stakeholders.

 

The ten important principles contained within A Modern Building and Construction Regulation Framework for Malta:

  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 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 to 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. They would obviously need to have specific skills, and should therefore be classified and licensed according to such skills.
  7. The enforcement of construction regulations to be delegated to private service providers, licensed by the BCA, referred to as Building and Construction Inspectors (BCIs).
  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.
  10. Post-occupancy checks and audits to be undertaken as pre-determined by the BCA to ensure the continued compliance of the structure with building regulations.

 

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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