The Malta Independent 29 January 2023, Sunday
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TMID Editorial: Construction site enforcement - Let us act before a real tragedy occurs

Friday, 26 April 2019, 10:50 Last update: about 5 years ago

Wednesday evening’s quasi tragedy has once again raised the spectre of the massive lack of enforcement that there is with regard to construction sites in Malta.

Four families have ended up homeless – they lost most of their worldly possessions in a building collapse that has shocked the nation. Yet, in some way, they can be considered to be lucky in that they managed to run out of their houses in the nick of time, avoiding loss of life.

Fingers were immediately pointed at the adjacent construction site, where excavation work had taken place for most of the day and the preceding weeks. The residents say that they cracks had opened up in their walls months ago, when works in the construction site first started, but they were eventually told by an architect that the structure was safe and there was nothing to worry about. This was not the case.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat yesterday said that people should not jump to conclusions, and that there was a chance that the residents had lodged their complaints with the wrong authority. Therein lies the problem. It is still unclear to this day which authority has jurisdiction over the case. Which authority should such cases be reported to? Time and time again we have seen how understaffed and under-resourced these authorities are.

This newsroom had its own fair share of pain when dealing with construction site issues. We had reported some months ago how calls to the Building Regulations Office would go unanswered because the authority simply does not have enough people to man the lines and go out on inspections.

Both the OHSA and BRO are entitled to act on their own initiative and without having to wait for a report or complaint to be lodged. But it seems that such inspections are too few and far between.

It is useless to have such authorities in place if they do not have enough manpower to carry out the very task they were set up for.

In September of last year, The Malta Independent had interviewed Carlo Mifsud, a former Lands Authority CEO who is overseeing the creation of the Malta Building and Construction Aurhority. The aim of the MCBA is to bring together the Building Industry Consultative Council (BICC), Building Regulations Office (BRO), Building Regulation Board (BRB), and the Masons Board) which, he admitted, were too thinly spread out and lacked resources. Another aim was to review the different legislation that exists.

The consultation period was supposed to close on 15 October. More than six months later, no such authority exists. And this at a time of an unprecedented construction boom.

In a country where the construction industry makes the headlines on a daily basis, such an authority needs to be set up as soon as possible. There is no time for procrastination. This laissez-faire attitude by certain contractors, as highlighted by a court some years ago, has to stop. This time the people involved were ‘lucky’. The next ones might not be. Let us not wait for a real tragedy to happen before we act.

On a more positive note, the government should be lauded for the way it dealt with the incident. Prompt action was taken to ensure that the affected residents are put up with relatives or in emergency accommodation.

The emergency response services should also be congratulated for the swift and professional manner in which they responded to the building collapse.

One now hopes that the residents who were affected by the incident can return to their normal lives in as short a time as possible and that they do not end up incurring costs for damages caused by others.

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