Updated 5.05pm

Prime Minister Robert Abela said that he expects the individuals who were responsible for failings that led to the construction site death of Jean Paul Sofia to reach out to him by 4.30pm to “shoulder responsibility” and resign.

Abela said one chairperson, two CEOs and one employee were singled out for criticism by the board of inquiry, along with a number of other individuals who no longer occupy public sector roles. 

He stopped short of naming names. 

Video: MaltaGov/Facebook

Abela was speaking to journalists hours after receiving a copy of the public inquiry report of the 20-year-old's death on Wednesday.

The 484-page report found that the state should "assume responsibility" after  a “comedy of errors” within construction site legislation meant the Corradino site which collapsed on Sofia and five other workers in December 2022 fell through regulatory cracks. 

It highlighted failures at state entities including Malta Enterprise, INDIS and the OHSA, saying officials at all three authorities should “consider their positions” in light of the findings. 

When asked if Abela will be asking for the resignation of such officials, he replied, without mentioning names, that he expects the resignation of those individuals mentioned in the report by 4.30pm today. He said he expected them to “bear responsibility” for what happened. 

“The board was clear on who should bear responsibility, and I expect that responsibility to be shouldered,” he said. 

“The inquiry highlights a chairperson of one entity, two CEOs of other entities, one employee, and a number of officials who no longer hold their previous role," he said.

He said if these individuals do not come forward, he will take the "necessary action" himself.

The report singled out Occupational Health and Safety Authority chairman David Xuereb for appearing "completely detached" from the authority's day-to-day realities and said he should "consider his position". 

Contacted for comment, Xuereb told Times of Malta: "I respect the authors and am duty bound to respect the recommendations of said report irrespective of my opinion."

He later clarified that he intended to resign.

Kevin Camilleri, head of the micro enterprise unit at Malta Enterprise was also found to have "totally failed in his responsibilities".

David Xuereb should "consider his position", the inquiry board said. File photo: Matthew MirabelliDavid Xuereb should "consider his position", the inquiry board said. File photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Asked if the state will shoulder the responsibility, Abela said that "the state needs to do better where the entities lacked". 

"The inquiry is clear: the state must make up for the failings of the entities, and the inquiry is clear on the failures of the entities. It is clear on those officials who failed, and they must take on responsibility. And we (the state) have the responsibility to implement these recommendations."

The report highlighted significant failings in the way Malta Enterprise and INDIS approved the Corradino project, saying serious scrutiny of the proposal would have led to it being rejected. 

At the time, Malta Enterprise was led by Mario Galea as CEO while INDIS was led by Karl Azzopardi. Answering a question, the prime minister noted that current Malta Enterprise CEO Kurt Farrugia was not at the entity during the time in question.  

Opposition leader Bernard Grech said the blame for Sofia's death, however, lay with the government "that adopts an attitude of anything goes”. The public inquiry’s report, Grech said, was “confirmation of why Robert Abela stamped his feet to try to stop Jean Paul Sofia’s mother’s request for a public inquiry".

Arnold Cassola independent candidate, accused Abela of "trying to sideline the political responsibility for many instances of bad governance" and called for the resignation of "all those politicians under whose responsibility INDIS and Malta Enterprise fall".

Sofia’s death a ‘wake up call’ 

During the press conference, Abela announced initiatives for better monitoring of construction sites and to improve standards in the sector. The 50-year-old slack mentality prevailing in the sector needs to be changed, he said. 

“I believe that Isabelle, her husband, and Jean Paul’s memory were a wake-up call for the country,” he said.

“After 50 years of this slack mentality in the construction site, we have had enough. It is a pity, of course, that this change had to come following the death of this young man. We had another (construction) death, that of Miriam Pace, following which several recommendations were made and we have taken them seriously,” Abela said.

He said the government will do everything possible to reduce every risk as much as possible and will invest in prevention to ensure that such a tragedy is not repeated.

“Amateurs have to pack up,” he said.

He announced that the government would be setting up a new cabinet sub-committee to implement the inquiry recommendations.

This will be led by Glenn Micallef, the head of the Secretariat at the Office of the Prime Minister who will ensure that all 39 recommendations are implemented.

He did not mention deadlines.

When asked if compensation would be considered, he said he preferred to discuss this with Sofia’s family.

He also announced five measures the government will be adopting to ensure the immediate implementation of the recommendations.

“We need to give more power to the citizens, especially those who are affected by the construction sector,” Abela said, adding that there will be a centralised helpline for citizens to file reports and complaints of construction site abuses.

He said that the government will provide free professional help, including lawyers and technical architects, who will serve as a point of reference and a voice for citizens.

Enforcement had to be centralised, and a section to supervise all enforcement in the sector would be set up.

He said he would ask the Environment and Planning ombudsman to extend his role to include the construction sector.

Abela also said that any differentiation made between standalone buildings and other types of buildings will cease to exist in the coming weeks.

He added that the new occupational health and safety law will be in place by next summer.

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