Days after Malta’s latest construction fatality, which claimed the life of JeanPaul Sofia, 20, the government agency entrusted with regulating the construction industry has decided to throw a massive party to celebrate Christmas and its ‘achievements’ for the year.
The party, to be held next Friday at the 5-star Marriot Hotel in St Julian’s, owned by construction magnate Charles Polidano, known as Iċ-Ċaqnu, will be paid through taxpayer funds, in a clear breach of a directive issued by the new Head of the public service, Tony Sultana, last month.
Through an invitation sent to all the Building and Construction Agency (BCA) employees and other collaborating entities, including Minister Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi’s staff, BCA CEO Jesmond Muscat asked his invitees to join him at the Marriott to “celebrate” and “have the opportunity to socialise outside office hours”.
The Shift is informed that Muscat’s ‘initiative’ will cost €15,000 for the three-hour bash.
Muscat did not reply to questions when asked by The Shift whether he had considered that such a party at such a time, in the wake of yet another fatality in a sector for which the same agency is responsible, would be inappropriate and insensitive.
The CEO, appointed to lead the BCA last June through a political decision by Minister Zrinzo Azzopardi, also refused to explain who would pay for this Christmas bash, since a directive issued by the head of the public service prohibits the use of public funds.
On 24 November, in a memo issued to all heads of government departments and government agencies, Principal Permanent Secretary Tony Sultana issued a directive stating that “no government funds are to be used for Christmas parties”.
Despite this order, Jesmond Muscat insists on celebrating Christmas and his ‘achievements’, despite a list of casualties due to a lack of enforcement.
It is unclear whether the Minister responsible for the BCA, Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi, has given the green light for the party to be held.
Several BCA employees who received the invitation told The Shift they felt “disgusted”, saying the move showed a lack of respect for the victims of the recent tragedy in Kordin.
Together with the Planning Authority and the OHSA, the BCA regulates the building industry, including monitoring and enforcing illegal projects and practices.
The Shift has already revealed that the architect behind the recent Kordin building collapse, which led to the hospitalisation of another five workers apart from claiming the life of the young Sofia, had not filed a commencement notice and did not have the clearance from the BCA, making the project illegal.
Set up some two years ago as a knee-jerk reaction to another construction fatality – the death of Miriam Pace – the BCA never took off and got bogged down in bureaucracy without the necessary resources from the government.
To complicate matters, Minster Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi fired the then-CEO Karl Azzopardi after the general elections in March to replace him with his man – Jesmond Muscat, a former Deputy Chief Officer at Transport Malta.
Azzopardi is asking the Minister to pay him €200,000 for “constructive dismissal”.
Zrinzo Azzopardi also re-appointed Maria Schembri Grima as the regulator’s chairperson, the architect of Gozo construction magnate Joseph Portelli.