The Malta Independent 7 June 2023, Wednesday
View E-Paper

TMID Editorial: Contractor licensing law is a good start

Monday, 20 March 2023, 11:27 Last update: about 4 months ago

Last week, the government published the long-awaited framework for the licensing of construction contractors – a law which will see contractors have to be registered and granted a licence in order to be able to operate in the sector.

It is well-known that the construction sector is afflicted by many so-called “cowboys”.  This is somewhat down to the fact that enforcement again them is patchy at best, but more so because as things stand anyone can wake up one morning and decide that they want to be a contractor.

This fact alone leads to an industry incapable of being enforced, because there is no standard for what a contractor should (and shouldn’t) be and what they should be qualified in.

For that reason alone, the government’s proposal to start licensing contractors is a good start to a much-needed reform to the industry.

According to the government’s plan people can start applying for a licence from 1 June, and an application must be submitted by 31 October. Failing to apply by this date will mean that they will not be able to operate from 1 November, and from 1 November all the obligations linked to the licence shall be enforced.

After 1 November the contractors who applied will be given provisional clearance so that they can operate, however, after 1 June 2024, they will need to be in possession of a full licence to operate.

The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) board will be tasked with temporarily suspending or revoking licences if the contractor breaks any regulations.

There will not be one licence for all contractors, but applicants will have the option to apply for three different licences: one for demolition, one for excavation and one for construction. Zrinzo Azzopardi added that following the issuing of these licences there will be the introduction of skill cards for workers.

The plan also includes the establishment of a construction industry licensing committee which will be tasked with issuing licences for each service.

With the licence, contractors will have to comply with regulations issued by the BCA, must be in accordance with instructions from an architect and in compliance with the method statement.

The applicants also need to have relevant work experience based on the licence they are applying for and must also have a fair understanding of health and safety rules.

Demolition and excavation applicants will need to have two architects confirm that they have had three years of experience in the field. However, if have an MQF level 4 qualification in the sector, then you only need two years of experience.

Those seeking a building licence must be licenced as masons. Companies applying for a licence must employ a licenced mason and have at least three years of experience.

On the face of it, this is indeed a good start.  Like with any other thing, a lot will depend on how the law will be implemented, on who will be tasked with overseeing the process once it is implemented, and on how the law will be enforced.

It is no controversial statement to say that enforcement is one of Malta’s great weak points.  Planning Minister Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi told The Malta Independent on Sunday this week that the licensing system will act as a deterrent and start to build a “compliance culture.”

In many ways this is true, but there is still the need for effective enforcement against those who will inevitably think that they can get around the rules.

But for one to enforce something, there has to be a legal framework to enforce.  In that sense, the proposed licensing law is a good start.

  • don't miss