Sofia inquiry confirms state’s ‘irregular, incompetent, disrespectful’ deficiencies

A public inquiry into the death of Jean Paul Sofia, 20, who fell victim to a construction site collapse in 2022, found that state entities had acted in a way which was “irregular, disrespectful to legal requirements, incompetent, and lacking thoroughness”.

In a scathing 500-page report on its findings, the inquiry board, led by former judge Joseph Zammit McKeon, found serious deficiencies in the ways the Kordin factory’s construction was both approved and regulated.

Sofia was killed in December 2022 at what was to be a timber factory built illegally on government land granted by government agencies Malta Enterprise and INDIS to Maltese developers with a criminal past having connections to the Lands Authority.

A public inquiry into the death was launched in a U-turn decision last July by Prime Minister Robert Abela after widespread calls from Sofia’s family and the public. Abela had heavily opposed the inquiry.

The project’s approval

Investigating the manner in which the developers were granted public land for the timber factory’s construction, the inquiring board said state investments company “Malta Enterprise should have never issued the letter of intent on which the site’s contract with [state industrial parks agency] INDIS was based.”

Malta Enterprise’s scrutiny of the developer’s proposed project “was irregular, disrespectful to legal requirements, incompetent, and lacked any thoroughness,” the report said. “It should have never been raised before the Malta Enterprise Investments Committee for final approval.”

As the land’s administrator, INDIS Malta “did not under any circumstances fulfil its obligations.” The board said there was no “robust, efficient, transparent, and well-governed procedure” followed.

Malta Enterprise and INDIS Malta fell under the remit of former Enterprise Minister Miriam Dalli and Economy Minister Silvio Schembri at the time.

Regulations and enforcement a ‘comedy of errors’

In its analysis of the existing regulations for the construction industry and their enforcement, the inquiring board found deficiencies within the boards and authorities tasked.

It found Operational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) regulations “are not being applied well enough or at all.”

Commenting on the Building and Construction’s enforcement responsibilities on the project, the board said, “There are many laws which are in conflict with one another.”

Another state authority, the Building Regulation Office (BRO), “had no formal way of enforcing regulations” despite being saddled with the task through a ministerial order.

The board claimed testimony heard painted a “classic comedy of errors” that resulted in “Sofia dying in a site that was not controlled by any regulatory authority.”

It deplored such “unacceptable” mistakes, noting that “the State had failed to recognise the confusion in its own executive.”

Commenting on enforcement, the board said, “Had existing regulations been seriously enforced, integrated into the sector processes, and not left on paper, there would be a drastic reduction in construction site accidents.”

“Since the construction industry has been allowed to proliferate without effective control, it is not easy to enforce existing legislation,” the board noted.

The full public inquiry report can be accessed here.

                           

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4 Comments
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KLAUS
KLAUS
1 month ago

Just listen to ROBBER Abela what the said:

Maybe he is just speechless or on a Yacht leaving Malta 🇲🇹?

What a shame he is.

KLAUS
KLAUS
1 month ago

I just read that Ablea said that the persons who are responsible have to step down.

So he has to step down too.

Zhuhsi
Zhuhsi
1 month ago

It is time that the NAO be charged with auditing all land deals concluded by Indis and Malta Enterprise these past 6 years.

Michael Borg
Michael Borg
1 month ago

According to Robert Abela, everybody is to blame except the politicians who appointed the incompetent CEO’s etc to their posts!

Bravu hafna il-Prim!! The first one who should resign is him!

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