The Malta Independent 15 April 2024, Monday
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PN’s attitude towards implementation of Sofia inquiry recommendations is ‘populist’, government says

Wednesday, 3 April 2024, 10:52 Last update: about 11 days ago

The PN is being 'populist' and 'contradictory' in its attitude towards the implementation of the Jean Paul Sofia public inquiry recommendations, the Ministry for Justice and Construction Industry Reform has alleged.

"While just a few weeks ago the Opposition demanded that the recommendations be implemented within six months, it now is opposing the change to higher standards and insists that everything should be done gradually in the long term. While the Government is committed to doing what has not been done in 50 years in this sector, as recommended by the Jean Paul Sofia Inquiry, the Opposition remains synonymous with hiding behind the consultation, but never reaches the point of implementation," it said in a statement.

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PN MP Stanley Zammit had said on Tuesday that the implementation of the recommendations of the public inquiry into the death of the 20-year-old "started off on the wrong foot," as the Building and Construction Authority increased forms and bureaucracy, instead of tackling the problems at their roots.

Zammit said that the BCA, after the inquiry, stated that "the sector had been left for years devoid of clear regulations, with conflicting legislation and authorities stumbling over each other, resulting in those who continued doing as they pleased." It was "superficial" and went for more forms and bureaucracy, he said. On insurance, Zammit said that the Nationalist Party was clear from the very first day and, after extensive dialogue and consultation, proposes a single mandatory insurance policy to cover all the contractor's work, along with insurance for workers, before they become licensed. "The Government came up with every excuse not to implement this, even though constituted bodies and sector representatives agreed with the Nationalist Party's proposal. After further delays, and a few weeks after the discussion in Parliament, the government, under pressure, issued a Legal Notice to partially implement what the Nationalist Party proposed," Zammit said.

Zammit had also said that although the condition report on affected neighbouring properties is obligatory, the Building and Construction Authority is requiring more documentation for the same purpose. "This additional bureaucracy means that instead of the contractor having one insurance policy to cover all the work, they will have to take out and register a policy and carry out verification for each job piece, and repeatedly declare the affected third-party properties," he said, adding that there are significant shortcomings in clear definitions, such as in the case of minor works, where the process will be prolonged and expenses increased without adding any value. He criticised Zammit said that the government needs to consult seriously with the construction sector, while coming out with a serious, acceptable, clear, and transparent plan.

The Government, in its statement, said that immediately following the publication of the Jean Paul Sofia inquiry, Prime Minister Robert Abela appointed a Cabinet subcommittee "not only to implement the recommendations, but also to dialogue with key stakeholders".

The Ministry for Justice and Construction Industry Reform has already intervened through amendments to subsidiary legislation regarding the obligation of insurance covering third parties, even on standalone sites, as well as to workers working on construction sites. In addition to this, the government is also now offering a free legal assistance service by lawyers and architects "that will give a stronger voice to citizens impacted by construction."

The Building and Construction Authority has also begun a streamlining process, including through the introduction of a 'Certificate of Insurance', providing a concise summary of voluminous documentation covering the insurance policy, and is working on a new IT system to facilitate and streamline the process, the government said.

The ministry said that while the Condition Report for each property affected by development has always been mandatory, there have been several instances where after the Authority issues clearance, there would be a request from a third party affected by the development to make a Condition Report or inform the Authority that it had never received a copy of this report.

"With the form introduced, two declarations have been integrated into one and therefore the bureaucracy has been reduced and not increased as claimed by the Opposition spokesperson. This declaration has been in force since January."



 

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