The Malta Independent 6 June 2023, Tuesday
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Stakeholders say yes to licensing of contractors, but periti question government’s willingness

Marc Galdes Sunday, 12 February 2023, 08:00 Last update: about 5 months ago

Construction industry stakeholders have expressed their support to planned legislation to license building contractors, but following unkept promises dating back to 2019 and so far being excluded from the drafting of a Bill the government is working on, il-Kamra tal-Periti (KTP – Chamber of Architects) has expressed doubt over the government’s willingness.

The president of KTP, Andre Pizzuto, told The Malta Independent on Sunday: “So far we have not been involved in any drafting. We remain hopeful that the government is serious about licensing contractors.”

“The Council of the Kamra (Chamber) is bound by an EGM motion which imposed on us that we demand to have the licensing of contractors in place by October 2022. The periti authorised the Council to escalate as it deems most appropriate should these timelines not be met.”

October 2022 has come and gone, but no legislation is in place as yet.

The government is working on a draft legislation to license contractors, but the Bill is still to be finalised and has not been presented before the Cabinet. Last November, Planning Minister Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi had said that contractors in the construction industry will “soon” require a licence to operate in the industry.

“We are approaching the end of discussions on a system that will introduce licensing for all contractors who are involved in the construction industry,” he had said, promising a public consultation exercise.

The periti’s scepticism stems from the fact that it is not the first time that the government has promised to work on a contractors’ licensing system. A similar pledge had also been made by then parliamentary secretary for construction Chris Agius in 2021, which followed another promise made by then Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg in 2019.

Borg had said, four years ago: “If you do not have a licence, you cannot operate in the industry. This should happen by the end of the year (2019).”

Pizzuto said that KTP has been campaigning for such licences to be introduced since 2007 and had managed to secure a letter of commitment signed in 2019 by Borg.

The Malta Independent on Sunday contacted a number of stakeholders in the construction industry to ask about their position on the government’s plans to have contractors working in the industry operate only if they have a licence.

The president of the Malta Developers Association (MDA) Michael Stivala said that the MDA is very keen on seeing these licences implemented.

“The faster this happens, the better. We are in discussions with the government as we want this as soon as possible. Just like we pushed for estate agents to be licensed, which is a system that works, now we want the same for the contractors.”

The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry also showed its support and said that it “has always insisted on the introduction of a licensing regime for all contractors involved in the building and construction industry. It is a first step in ensuring that the current rudimentary site practices start being addressed seriously”.

“Licensing needs to take into consideration administrative compliance including having the required insurance policies in place, technical competence as well as financial soundness. Equally important is the corresponding monitoring, timely enforcement in the case of abuse which includes suspension and revocation of licences, and effective penalties, Chamber CEO Marthese Portelli told this newspaper.

“It is imperative that the legislator ensures that the legislation being drafted is robust and implementable. For this reason, it is important to rope in all stakeholders at the early stage of its drafting to hear out their concerns and proposals on how to address possible pitfalls,” she said.

For its part, the Occupational Health and Safety Association (OHSA) said that “the registration and licensing of building contractors is not a matter that will be regulated through the OHS Authority Act.

“This notwithstanding, OHSA is in favour of all those measures that further clarify the responsibilities of key stakeholders. The licensing process has to be coupled with more training of workers on site not only in relation to their skills but also for more health and safety awareness.”


PN’s position

The Malta Independent on Sunday also contacted the Nationalist Party spokesperson for planning research and innovation, Stanley Zammit, regarding the issue.

Zammit said that the government should stop “patch-working” and added that the PN has been working towards regulating and licensing contractors for years.

He initially pointed out how the PN was the first political party in Malta that initiated the discussion regarding the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) principles within the operations of the various sectors, not the least in the construction industry.

“The PN believes that sustainability is about creating long-term value by implementing strategies that incorporate ESG dimensions, in addition to economic ones.”

“On behalf of the PN, I have been asking for a holistic approach and action by the government in order to review, simplify and streamline the various pieces of legislation and regulations while considering all the elements of the construction industry ecosystem. If this is done in a serious and timely manner, the government could instil the ESG principles within the construction industry.”

He added that accountability is important for good governance as well as the construction sector and this must be improved through appropriate “legislation, regulation, personal development and recognition. This is why the PN has been pursuing to regulate and licence the contractors for both construction and services for years”.

“Recently Minister Zrinzo Azzopardi mentioned that a number of drafts are being considered.  Once again, consultation and transparency are lacking. Definitely, not a good example of good governance,” Zammit said.

He said the government has caused a lot of confusion in the industry which has given “rise to a laissez-faire attitude by all parties on site as they hide behind this regulatory confusion”.

“Therefore, the PN urges the government not to be arrogant, to learn from past mistakes, not to procrastinate any further, to consult all the stakeholders, including the Opposition, to keep the whole construction ecosystem in mind and to use this opportunity, not as a cosmetic change but one which gradually but firmly establishes environmental, social and governance within the industry.”


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