The Malta Independent 24 June 2019, Monday

TMID Editorial: Parliament - Plug those leaks, now

Wednesday, 16 January 2019, 10:59 Last update: about 6 months ago

Our ‘new’ Parliament building is not so new anymore, it seems.

The building, designed by world renowned Italian architect Renzo Piano, has always been a topic of controversy.

It was part of the Valletta city gate project, which split the Maltese population right down the middle – some loved it, and others hated the design. Perhaps the city gate or the roofless theatre were more controversial in design.

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But just as people seemed to have finally accepted Valletta’s new look, the Speaker of the House of Representatives on Monday announced that the project, which ran over schedule and budget, is suffering from major waterproofing problems, with the water causing havoc on the building’s interior.

Farrugia told journalists that the seeping rainwater was causing steel beams to corrode and was putting Parliament’s IT and security systems in jeopardy.

He showed the members of the press photos of mouldy walls and ceilings which, he said, were caused by “constant” leakages. Several areas of Parliament were being affected, including the administrative block, the main chamber and the bathrooms.

These problems started three years ago, he said. The current Parliament building only started being used in 2015, which means that the problems started from the beginning.

Farrugia said the Parliament had carried out maintenance works and upkeep but there were problems that needed to be solved, particularly with regards to flooding.  It was clear, he said, that the building had not been finished properly. Glass panes and windows had not been properly fitted, he said.

Last month, journalists witnessed water leaking from the ceiling of one of the Opposition’s chambers, during a press conference by Partit Demokratiku. Buckets had been placed beneath the leaking spots, to collect the seeping rainwater.

While the building was designed by an architect that is famous the world over, the actual works left much to be desired. Originally intended to open in 2014, MPs only migrated from the Grand Master’s Palace the following year, and the deadline was moved several times. This resulted in the contractor being fined.

There was also an issue with the MPs desks, which had to be redesigned because of a lack of space.

It is clear that the contractors responsible for these shoddy works have to be held to account and made to fix these issues before any more damage is done.

We believe that the Grand Harbour Regeneration Corporation, which had overseen the City Gate project, should also be held responsible.

If the finishing of the building was not carried out properly it is pointless to complain about it now. We are speaking here about a project that was carried using public funds – a project worth millions – and it is the authorities’ job to ensure that taxpayer money is not squandered away on sub-standard projects.

The Speaker said on Monday that Parliament was in contact with the GHRC but urged the government to intervene and make sure that the Parliament building is fixed and that is does not suffer any more damage. The GHRC, meanwhile, told another section of the press that the fault lay with the Parliamentary Service, which was now responsible for the building’s upkeep.

It is clear that the authorities should stop passing the buck and see to it that this mess is sorted out.

Just like we expect our hard earned money to be used on roads that last beyond the first rains, we expect that a building as expensive and as iconic as our Parliament is built to the highest standards.

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