The owners of seven businesses in Mosta have started legal proceedings against the authorities claiming that roadworks in their street, which had been going on since 2020, were shoddy and negligent, causing them to suffer loss of earnings. The owners argue that the roadworks were carried out “without any plan, logic and seriousness” and were riddled with carelessness and inexperience.

Winning compensation for disruption caused by chaotic and disorganised roadworks can be complicated. Frustrated business owners, residents, motorists and other road users usually have to wait for a court to decide whether their grievances qualify them for financial compensation.

The general rule in most countries is that no compensation is due if a business is affected by roadworks. Variations in traffic flow are considered to be an inherent business risk. The relevant authorities in Malta – such as transport and tourism – would argue that roadworks improve the network and ultimately benefit the whole community.

Still, there is an argument to be made that losses arising from negligence or lack of planning by the authorities or their contractors should not be borne by businesses. Many would say that this argument could easily apply to numerous roadworks taking place in different parts of the island, which at times cause intolerable disruption over long periods. A case in point are the roadworks around the airport.

How many times does one encounter roadworks which seem like déjà vu, where it was not too long ago that the same road was dug up and resurfaced? This is, in fact, one of the complaints being made by the Mosta enterprises, who say their road has twice been closed to traffic following shoddy works.

One factor that seems to contribute to this problem is that rather than employ reliable contractors with experience in managing critical road projects, and keeping constant tabs on them so they get the job done well and quickly, the authorities often take a backseat while work proceeds and contractors take on more jobs than they can handle.

There is also scant evidence of enforcement of penalties when contractors do not reach the original milestones set in the contract conditions. This lack of professionalism and accountability inevitably leads to loss of trade for shops and other outlets. 

Unfortunately, chaotic and disorganised roadworks have come to be considered normal, as people lower their expectations of the standards to which public service providers should aspire. Transport Malta’s customary statement, “We apologise for any inconvenience the works may cause and thank you for your patience”, is at best insincere and at worst a clear sign that public service authorities do not care much about the well-being of ordinary citizens. 

The government, public authorities and utility providers need to change their attitude in the face of clear evidence of customer service failures.

They must work closely with local communities to ensure measures are in place to reduce disruption and keep traffic moving. This often entails doing work speedily outside peak travel times, including at night and off-peak tourist seasons.

Legislation is needed to create legal liability and provide compensation when a government entity fails to do everything possible to manage public works projects efficiently, and in consideration of the citizens who are being served by these works in the first place. The price of negligent or incompetent actions by public authorities should not be paid by ordinary citizens and businesses.

Hopefully, the action taken by the Mosta businesses will help sensitise the authorities to the unfairness of taking people for granted, despite their financing of public services through taxation.

Sign up to our free newsletters

Get the best updates straight to your inbox:
Please select at least one mailing list.

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By subscribing, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing.