Updated 5pm, adds statement by National Building Council

The Building and Construction Authority halted nine building projects where contractors had failed to apply for a licence, according to the authority. In July, new rules entered into force requiring all contractors to be licensed to build, demolish and excavate buildings by January next year.

Those active until then need “provisional approval” to continue working – which they should have applied for by the end of last October. And, in November, the BCA said it had ordered those who hadn’t applied to stop working. 

Responding to questions from Times of Malta, the authority revealed it had ordered works to stop “in nine cases where contractors were operating without applying for a licence”.

The BCA refused to disclose which contractors had been ordered to stop working and what their roles onsite had been, citing “data protection”.

The authority said that, by March, almost 4,200 contractors had applied for a licence – around 400 more than had applied by the deadline at the end of October. 

According to the new rules regulating the sector, those who applied after the deadline can continue to apply for a licence until the end of May but may face longer processing times. 

Contractors who did not apply for a licence but continue to work risk fines of up to €50,000 and a jail term of up to six months. Violators who ignore stop orders can be fined €5,000 a day.

The licensing of contractors was a measure that had long been called for following a spate of construction deaths and collapsed properties next to building works. 

The government first promised to license contractors in 2019, giving itself until the end of the year to introduce the measure – a deadline it missed. 

Then, in 2021, the then parliamentary secretary for construction, Chris Agius pledged that the setting up of the BCA that year would lead to the licensing of contractors. It did but not for another two years until rules for the sector were published in July last year. 

In 2020, Miriam Pace was killed when her Ħamrun house collapsed while building works were going on next door and, two years later, 20-year-old Jean Paul Sofia was killed in a building collapse on government-leased land.

Last week, the results of a public inquiry into Sofia’s death said the State must bear responsibility and a number of key officials should “consider their positions”. 

Since then, one official has been sacked and another four have resigned, with pressure increasing on government ministers Miriam Dalli, Silvio Schembri and Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi to also step down.

In a statement, the National Building Council said there should be a readily accessible database of all those who are legally allowed to operate.

"Unfortunately, to date, the BCA has failed to publish the list of permitted contractors and licensed masons.

"This information constitutes a matter of national and public interest which cannot be shielded with the excuse of data protection," it said, adding that this did not apply in such a circumstance.

"Everybody in the industry, and all those affected by it, have a right to know who the legally recognised operators in the industry are."

It said that as a result of the BCA’s failure to publish these lists, the owners of the nine shut down site and their architects will be burdened with the cost of the site closures through no fault of their own.

Those buying these properties will also have to move in later than planned.

"This is unjust and must be rectified immediately," the NBC said.

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