With the Planning Authority dishing out anything over 12,000 permits every single year, Malta’s authority for the building and construction industry conducts just six inspections every day.
Following a parliamentary question from MP Robert Cutajar, Infrastructure Minister Ian Borg revealed that over 152 working days since the start of August 2019, the Building Construction Agency went on 927 visits across the island. It has closed just 14 sites.
The number of visits may seem large. However, with figures showing that the PA approved close to 13,000 dwellings in 2018, the number of inspections is still worryingly low. The figures for 2019 are yet to be released.
Visits, it should be noted, prove to be a highly successful endeavour. A separate parliamentary question revealed that over the last three years irregularities were uncovered in around 75% of the sites inspected in Mellieha, St Paul’s Bay, and Naxxar.
The microscope has been firmly on the BCA ever since a fatal collapse in Hamrun claimed the life of Miriam Pace, a 52-year-old mother of two. Six people were arrested in connection with the case, including architect Roderick Camilleri, developer Malcolm Mallia, the site technical officer Anthony Mangion, excavation and demolition contractor Ludwig Dimech.
The BCA had replaced the much-maligned Building Regulations Office in August 2019 following promises of change in the sector. However, architects who have spoken to Lovin Malta have said that the agency remains poorly resourced, while their powers remain weak.
The Agency does not even have the power to review and overrule the architect’s mission statements.
When it comes to Human Resources, it is unsurprising that the number of visits remains low. There are just 30 employees at the BCA, according to another parliamentary question. A large number of them occupy administrative roles.
It remains to be seen whether promises of change from Malta’s Prime Minister will result in any major improvements for the crucial agency. Without it, enforcement issues in the construction industry will continue.