The Sofia public Inquiry is currently in full swing, with the summoning of both current and former officials from regulatory bodies associated with construction and its related sectors. Their testimonies aim to shed light on the current state of affairs within the Maltese construction industry. From what we’ve already observed, some striking conclusions have emerged, reinforcing notions we’ve held for the past four decades.

In a recent development reported by The Times, Judge Zammit McKeon  posed a particular question to the former Chairman of the Building Construction Authority (BCA), seeking insights into how an individual should respond upon noticing structural irregularities in a construction project. According to The Times, this query appeared to catch the witness off guard, as she struggled to provide a concise response. If the Times’ report is reliable, her circumventing of the response prompted even Judge Joseph Zammit McKeon, the chairperson of the inquiry board, to express concern for her well-being.

Frankly, I’m uncertain as to why this question was posed in the first place. It remains unclear whether the inquiry sought a direct answer or is merely testing the former BCA Chairman’s knowledge. Nevertheless, it’s abundantly clear that the question, for whatever its purpose, holds significant relevance.

What I can affirm is that there is an answer to that question because the law indeed provides a clear answer to this query.

Specifically, Regulation 38, found within Subsidiary Legislation 499.57 (New Roads and Road Works Regulations), addresses the matter succinctly. Allow me to share its essence, which is encapsulated in its concluding section: “…to leave any building or work which is ruinous or dangerous to persons or to the property of others.”

The complete article reads as follows:

 “38. It shall not be lawful, without a permit from the Authority and/or a license from the appropriate Local Council, to construct any work or make anything in any road, which may cause obstruction or create danger or inconvenience to the public, or, in spite of an intimation by the Police or by a local warden, to leave any building or work which is ruinous or dangerous to persons or to the property of others.”

In all fairness, the presence of this provision within the road regulations, following its transposition from the Police Code in 2010, does seem rather nonsensical. It’s entirely plausible that the inquiry board was earnestly seeking a solution to this puzzling situation. Meanwhile, it’s no wonder that the previous BCA chairperson had no immediate response to their query given the convoluted nature of its placement.

Judge Zammit McKeon and his team may very well recommend the reinstatement of this provision within the police code or the criminal code. Furthermore, they could propose amendments to enhance its clarity and potentially involve the Building Construction Authority in conjunction with the police as recipients of reports regarding dangerous or ruinous construction work.

Interestingly, I’ve previously authored a publication addressing this very issue. If you’re interested, you can access it via this link.

Next month, I will have the privilege of assisting a student law organization in conducting a special debate that will serve as a platform to comprehensively elucidate all these issues, approaching them from a strictly legal standpoint while also casting a keen eye on the technical aspects involved.