A government-endorsed Malta Developers’ Association register of excavation and demolition contractors has failed, sources have warned, after revelations that the excavator on the construction site neighbouring Miriam Pace’s home appeared on the approved list.
To form part of the register, all one needs to do is submit a form to the MDA. There are no licenses or qualifications required, essentially meaning that anyone could purchase a jigger tomorrow and find themselves on the register within a few weeks.
“Close to 80% of people in the industry are unqualified,” sources warned.
For example, Ludwig Dimech, the excavation and demolition contractor on the construction site that neighboured Miriam Pace’s home, is on the registered list. He has since been arrested in connection with the death.
There have been promises of improvement in qualifications and licensing. However, this will also apparently be led by the MDA, or at least heavily involve them. The reveal that one of the MDA’s council members was a developer on the site, also raises questions whether they are the appropriate lobby group to usher in change.
With a €50 fee to appear on the register, sources warned that all the exercise simply did was enrich the MDA further. With close to 460 contractors on the list within four months of operations, the register would have generated around €23,000 for the MDA.
The register was announced by the MDA and the then-Building Regulations Office (now Building And Construction Agency) at the MDA’s offices on 10th July 2019, days after an apartment block in nearby Pieta’ collapsed.
While it was initially unclear who would manage the registry, it was later revealed that the MDA would head the list, “in agreement with the Building Regulation Office”.
The Ombudsman’s Office had even declared that the then-Building Regulations Office (now Building And Construction Agency) broke then law when it made the developers’ lobby responsible for compiling the list.
It ordered the Building and Construction Agency to take over. However, it seems that the orders were not followed, with the registry still up, and MDA President Sandro Chetcuti referencing their licensing drive in the aftermath of the fatal collapse.
Meanwhile, the Building and Construction Agency is still facing questions over its ability to enforce the sector adequately. It does not even review or overrule method statements submitted by the architects.
What did the method statement say?
The architect, Roderick Camilleri, who is also a shareholder in the development and the author of the risk-assessing method statement, had declared that a collapse of nearby buildings was “minimal”.
The method statement also has spelling mistakes, at one point even saying that they “recon” that the rock level beneath the building is well before the soil level, despite them admitting that it was “unknown”.
They had even promised to build a new party wall from basement level up to penthouse level “to avoid damages to the neighbouring property”. However, it seems that this never actually took place.
According to police, Miriam Pace was killed when her house in Ħamrun collapsed as a result of works at the ongoing construction site.
Six people were arrested in connection with the case, including Camilleri, the site technical officer Anthony Mangion, excavation and demolition contractor Ludwig Dimech. However, four have been released on police bail, while two remain in custody.
The Ħamrun construction site is owned by a development consortium, MCZMC Developers Limited. The company is made up of Malcolm Mallia, Matthias Mallia, Elton Joseph Caruana, Amanda Muscat, Christopher Zarb, Simon Zarb, and the construction site’s architect Roderick Camilleri.
Mallia is also a council member of the MDA. He has since been suspended from his role.