Building and Construction Authority a positive initiative, but Construction Bill leaves much to be desired – Moviment Graffitti

Moviment Graffitti says proposed Construction Bill does not address residents’ concerns, favours undue influence from lobbies

Moviment Graffitti has reacted to the ongoing debate on the proposed Construction Bill, stating that the setting up of a Building and Construction Authority (BCA) is a “positive initiative”, but that the Bill fails to address certain key concerns faced by residents around Malta (read full feedback here).

The proposed Bill “leaves the door wide open to undue influences from private lobbies who have a vested interest in further deregulation of the sector.” The activist group also highlighted the Bill’s vague wording, which makes it difficult to understand, let alone predict, what it aims to achieve.

In its statement, Moviment Graffitti has criticised the clause allowing the proposed BCA to enter agreements with non-governmental entities so as to facilitate its functioning. This is clearly intended to allow the delegation of the contractors’ register and licensing to private interest groups such as the Malta Developers Association (MDA). This clause, which gives such lobbies executive power to carry out regulatory duties that should be carried out by the Authority, is completely unacceptable and should be immediately struck off the Bill.

The proposed composition of the BCA is also another contentious issue, with Moviment Graffitti insisting that members of the Board and Tribunal should not be handpicked by a Minister, but should be composed of independent individuals chosen after a thorough Parliamentary process.

Moreover, there is much to be desired in terms of transparency, efficiency and independence, since the Board and Tribunal are being given too much discretionary power to allow a fair process. The Board’s proceedings are not regulated, meaning that it can operate in an arbitrary manner. Moviment Graffitti is calling for Board meetings to be made in public, in line with Environment Minister’s Aaron Farrugia’s own pledge for more transparency.

Moviment Graffitti also lamented the lack of clear and stringent criteria upon which exemptions are granted, highlighting massive loopholes that risk nullifying the Bill itself.

The group has presented its detailed feedback to Environment Minister Dr Aaron Farrugia, Parliamentary Secretary for Construction Chris Agius, Chairperson of the Consideration of Bills Committee Dr Ian Castaldi Paris and Opposition representatives Hermann Schiavone and Toni Bezzina. In its feedback, Moviment Graffitti touched upon various shortcomings and proposals related to the setting up of the BCA, with submissions related to its structure and functions including enforcement, the issuing of permits, licensing and site audits.

“It is tragic indeed that the Bill is being discussed a year after Miriam Pace’s death, yet there seems to be no clear political will by either Government or Opposition to avoid a repeat of that tragedy,” said a spokesperson for the activists.

“The unclear wording and numerous loopholes indicate that this reform falls short of introducing key checks and balances. The Authority risks ending up as a tool in the hands of a very powerful lobby which is trying to muscle its way into the BCA’s board.”

Moviment Graffitti also hit out at Opposition MP Hermann Schiavone, describing his proposal for the MDA to have a seat on the BCA as “pure hypocrisy”, noting that the PN only half-heartedly campaigned for a construction reform. “This is further proof that both political parties are playing to the whims of Sandro Chetcuti’s lobby.”

“We completely oppose the idea that the MDA should have a seat on the board, since private profit-making entities should not interfere in regulation. The fact that one of the MDA’s own board members is being investigated for the murder of Miriam Pace speaks volumes about this lobby’s track record. The MDA does not deserve to be rewarded for Miriam Pace’s death.”

Moviment Graffitti also lamented the lack of formal public consultation on a Bill of this importance, especially since these regulations should serve to protect the public itself and not the interests of a private lobby such as the MDA.

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