The collapse of a building facade and scaffolding at a construction site in Gżira on Tuesday is a “consequence” of the government handling “the construction industry with kids’ gloves”, ADPD chairperson Sandra Gauci said in a press release on Wednesday.
Gauci said that the collapse meant lessons had not been learnt from previous incidents, and while no one was hurt in the Gżira incident, Gauci said this was just “good luck”.
The building collapsed in the middle of a supposed ‘reform’ of the construction industry being publicised by the government.
The ‘reform’ was launched following years of promises and the deadly building site collapses which took the lives of Miriam Pace in 2020 and Jean Paul Sofia in 2022.
“Nobody involved, from contractors, professionals, to the authorities, seem to have learned anything from the serious incidents that happened in the past”, the statement said.
Gauci said, “This is what happens when the necessary procedures take too long, and those clearly responsible face practically no consequences.”
The site on Triq Belvedere in Gżira was being turned by developer Kris Calleja into a nine-storey hotel and was issued a planning permit in 2021.
Colin Zammit, who The Shift reported was one of a handful of Labour Party favourites enjoying continued approval from the Planning Authority, served as the site’s architect.
The Labour Party government has promised a reform of the construction industry since at least 2019. A licensing framework for contractors in building projects was launched last year and will take effect from January 2025.
Professionals in the industry have claimed the reform is too little too late, considering the industry has been “overrun by anarchy.”
The Shift’s analysis of government promises and actions surrounding the construction industry in the last years established how the little action taken has been marred by foot-dragging and conflicts of interest.
A public inquiry into Sofia’s death, begrudgingly launched by Prime Minister Robert Abela last year following public outcry, heard how draft laws designed to regulate the construction industry were blocked by the Cabinet in order for the Labour Party not to lose votes from the contractors’ lobby ahead of the 2022 elections.
The inquiry report is expected to be published in March.
Sofia died in a building collapse in December 2022. He was working in what was to be a timber factory, constructed illegally on government property by Maltese developers with a criminal past and connections to the Lands Authority. Sofia was 20 years old.
Reacting to the Gżira collapse on social media, Isabelle Bonnici, Sofia’s mother, who successfully campaigned alongside NGOs and activists for the public inquiry’s launch, called for decisive action.
She asked Jonathan Attard, the minister responsible for construction reform, to take action on the issue. “Words alone will continue to see our children die; only through action can we hope to save them,” she said.
Miriam Pace died in another collapse in March 2020. The collapse came as a result of excavation works at an adjacent property.
Such excavation practices were later described as “playing Russian roulette with the lives of third parties” in a report by a four-person technical committee set up in the wake of Pace’s death.
Besides the yet-to-take-effect licensing framework, no significant changes have been introduced to the construction industry since Pace’s death almost four years ago.