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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

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

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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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PR 11/20 | Perit André Pizzuto elected President of the Kamra tal-Periti

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The Kamra tal-Periti held its Annual General Meeting on the 10th December 2020, the day after the Periti Act was moved to second reading in Parliament. Outgoing President, Perit Simone Vella Lenicker, welcomed this important milestone during the Kamra’s first virtual AGM, and highlighted the strong ties between this legislation and the challenges faced by the profession and the building industry. She also reported ongoing divergence on pertinent aspects of the Bill on two crucial aspects relating to (1) the alignment of the liability period with European averages and with insurance products available on the market, and (2) the appointment of the Board of Professional Conduct.  The Kamra was satisfied that the Bill had generally reflected the direction laid down in previous General Meetings and now augurs that it can achieve full agreement with the lawmakers on these outstanding matters in the interest of the profession and the industry.

The General Meeting approved two motions reiterating its position on the Periti Act and the Building and Construction Regulations Framework, and entrusting the Council of the Kamra to ensure that decisions approved during previous Meetings are implemented.  The first motion related to the pending divergences highlighted above.  The second related to the Building and Construction Regulation Framework and the AGM once again entrusted the Council to ensure that Government honours its written commitments made in August 2019 regarding the implementation of the necessary legislative and administrative changes.

Perit André Pizzuto was endorsed as President through a unanimous vote. He has contributed to the Kamra for the past 6 years, spearheading the publication of A Modern Building and Construction Regulation Framework for Malta, as well as the setting up of the Emanuele Luigi Galizia Awards. In his address, he spoke of three main aspects that will characterise his term, namely: the strengthening of the Kamra as an organisation capable of generating resources and delivering services to its members; renewed efforts to restructure the industry and its legal framework; and eagerness to modernise the profession so it can rise to the challenges posed by climate change, digitalisation of design and information modelling, and emerging construction technologies.

Perit Andre Pizzuto addressing virtual Annual General Meeting

 

Dr Amber Wismayer was elected as Vice President. She has held the role of Honorary Secretary of the Kamra since 2013, a role she will retain until end-2021.

Dr Amber Wismayer

 

The AGM elected two new Council members, Perit Matias Camilleri De Marco and Perit Adrian Mangion, and confirmed two incumbents Perit Dr Jeanette Muñoz Abela and Perit Anthony Bezzina.

Perit Matias Camilleri de Marco

Perit Adrian Mangion

 

The appointment of Kevin J. Borg as Managing Director of the Kamra tal-Periti was also announced during the General Meeting. He has been tasked with the implementation of a detailed and holistic three-year Business Plan which was approved by the Council earlier this year.

Kevin J. Borg