The developers’ lobby is pushing to have the right to appoint one of its own members to a new authority tasked with policing the construction sector, raising conflict of interest concerns.
A Malta Developers’ Association internal document reviewed by Times of Malta shows that construction lobbyists want three experts representing the various phases of construction on the board of the Building Construction Authority (BCA).
“MDA also feels that one of the board members should be appointed by the MDA, in the same way as that of Malta Enterprise,” the working document reads.
Environmentalist Arnold Cassola slammed the proposal when contacted by Times of Malta, saying the authority’s board should be free of conflicts of interest.
He questioned how the MDA could expect representation on a board that regulates its own members.
“If the MDA is going to be represented, NGOs must have the same and equal representation,” Cassola insisted.
A report drawn up following the death of Miriam Pace in a house collapse last March, linked to nearby construction, had emphasised the need for contractors to be regulated and new safeguards to increase safety.
The BCA board will be tasked with streamlining regulation of the construction sector and licensing its operators. Enabling legislation to set up the BCA is being debated in parliament. The proposed legislation already caters for the appointment of three warranted professionals to the board, in the form of an architect, a lawyer and engineer.
Does this mean that the board can exempt contractors from being registered, from using safe machinery?
This is not the first time the MDA has tried to muscle in on the regulatory process. In 2019, the lobby group took over the responsibility of drawing up a register of contractors that was meant to be a precursor for licensing the industry.
The ombudsman had later ruled that the Building Regulations Office broke the law by shrugging off its legal responsibilities for such a register to the MDA.
Watering down transparency provisions
The MDA is also aiming to water down transparency provisions in the board’s decisions when dealing with complaints lodged against developers.
While the draft law requires board decisions to be published on the BCA’s and DOI’s website, the MDA wants the decision to be made public only once the appeals period has expired and the decision is final.
According to the MDA’s position paper, only the party lodging the complaint and the concerned party should be informed about the board’s decision.
Cassola said the proposal to only publish once the appeal period has expired was “preposterous” because third parties should be given the right to contest decisions made by the regulator.
He also raised the alarm about a clause in the draft law allowing for blanket exemptions to be given by the BCA when it comes to regulatory requirements under the law.
What is the point of the law if blanket exemptions can be given, he asked.
“Does this mean that the board can exempt contractors from being registered, from using safe machinery and adhering to the national building code?”
He insisted that any applications for exemptions should be published in full online and anyone whose building may be affected or anybody with an interest in the structural safety of a public place should be allowed to appeal the exemption request.
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