An investigation is underway to determine whether to open a formal conduct case against the architect of a controversial site that has triggered fears of another collapse, Lovin Malta has been told by the Kamra Tal-Periti when asked for its reaction to the ongoing saga.
Matthew and Ramona Montebello fear their home will collapse due to construction next door and have spent weeks complaining about poor workmanship and negligence. Their objections have led to the method statement being revised three times, with the latest statement confirming their fears that demolition works could result in unplanned collapse.
The architect of the site – who has yet to answer Lovin Malta’s questions – is allegedly acting as the owner, architect, developer and Site Technical Officer, which is one of the complaints of the Montebello family, who fear these conflicting roles lead to risky workmanship. The first article of the architect’s code of conduct is: “A member must not hold, assume or consciously accept a position in which his interest is in conflict with his professional duty.”
The Chamber of Architects told Lovin Malta: “Mr and Mrs Montebello have filed a complaint regarding this case with the Kamra a few weeks ago and investigations are ongoing. Thus, we cannot comment on the merits of the case to safeguard the right of a fair hearing of all parties involved.”
“The primary role of the Kamra tal-Periti is to enforce ethical behaviour on members of the profession through its formal conduct processes in line with the Periti Act… the Kamra is already currently undertaking a prima-facie investigation to determine whether there are sufficient grounds to open a formal conduct case in terms of the Periti Act.”
The Chamber pointed out that since the Building and Construction Agency was set up in 2019 it never gave the Chamber a report regarding a potential breach of directives or any form of professional misconduct.
“This despite the fact that the Building Industry Technical Committee set up by the Prime Minister last year in the wake of Miriam Pace’s tragic demise specifically underscored the BCA’s obligation to report such matters to the Kamra,” the Chamber said.
The BCA has told Lovin Malta that no excavation will occur before the rubble in the site is cleared and a fresh geotechnical survey is conducted to determine how works need to be done.
Asked why the BCA is asking for a geotechnical survey now that works have begun, the Chamber said: “Projects are sometimes phased, particularly when prior demolition is required to undertake certain risk assessments. As your readers will certainly be aware, we have consistently highlighted the grave flaws in the BCA’s processes and regulations, and in particular the absence of a building permit process (which is not to be confused with the development permit process governed by the Planning Authority).”
The Chamber said we should not lose sight of the original source of this problem which is the “ill-advised development control policies published over the years by the Planning Authority” and its “complete failure” to fulfil its primary role to plan Malta’s urban and rural areas taking into consideration all impacts of development.
“Had it done so, we would not be witnessing this type of distress,” the Chamber added.
The Chamber urged readers to participate in their ongoing public consultation for the redrafting of Legal Notice 136 of 2019, which is all about regulations intended to avoid damage to third-party properties. The consultation period ends Friday.
Reacting to a report commissioned by the Montebello family and produced by geologist Peter Gatt which pointed to geological links between four collapses in the past three years and advised against excavation near the third-party property, the Chamber said that warranted periti were the sole qualified professionals to provide consultancy and technical opinions on matters related to the design of buildings, including excavation and foundations.
“It is already bad enough that contractors are not licensed. Non-warranted consultants giving technical opinions on construction-related matters, irrespective of whether such opinions are valid, is simply aggravating the chaos within the industry,” the Chamber said, adding that the evidence which emerged in court so far related to the building collapse in which Miriam Pace tragically lost her life does not indicate that geology was a factor.
“Moreover, making such assertions in public while a criminal case is still ongoing is grossly irresponsible,” it added.
What do you think needs to be changed about Malta’s construction industry?