Regulator and construction lobby’s contractors’ registry is illegal – Ombudsman

Ombudsman decries BRO’s involvement in MDA initiative and refers case to Prime Minister

MDA President Sandro Chetcuti and MDA representative Michael Stivala
MDA President Sandro Chetcuti and MDA representative Michael Stivala

An agreement between the Building Regulation Office and the Malta Developers Association to compile a registry of contractors published in 2019 was illegal according to Planning Ombudsman Alan Saliba.

The Ombudsman called on the Building Regulation Office to immediately remove adverts on the media in which it was promoting the register of contractors compiled by the Malta Developers Association, and called on the BRO to compile its own register.

This emerges from the case notes which document the main cases tackled by the Ombudsman in 2019.

The National Contractors Registry was set up in July 2019, in a joint initiative with the Building Regulation Office, and includes details about all contractors currently operating in Malta, including those carrying out excavation and demolition, as well as bricklayers and builders.

More than 600 contractors registered themselves with the Malta Developers Association (MDA).

When faced with the investigation of the Ombudsman, the BRO tried to evade scrutiny by claiming that the Planning Ombudsman only has jurisdiction on the workings of the Planning Authority and the Environment and Resources Authority, according to the Ombudsman Act.

Subsequently the commissioner informed the BRO that as a government entity that falls within the remit of the Ombudsman, the case was delegated to the Commissioner for Environment and Planning in terms of the Ombudsman Act, as has been done during the past seven years.

The BRO replied that it reached an understanding with the MDA to draw up a list of industry operators who are willing to “voluntarily submit their details” for onward publication, in order to take stock of the current situation, insisting that there is nothing at law which prohibits such an initiative and that a register as established by law would be compiled at a later stage.

But the Ombudsman concluded that the MDA did not require the blessing of the BRO in order to compile this register, and that the agreement between the BRO and the MDA was against the law which states that the same register must be compiled by the BRO.

“Furthermore, the law does prohibit the involvement of the BRO in such a register being compiled by a third-party so much so that the law does not only list who may delegate such functions (that is, the Minister) but also onto whom these functions maybe delegated (that is any other Government department or body corporate established by law which the MDA does not form part of)”.

After the BRO failed to reply the case was referred to the Prime Minister and subsequently also to the House of Representatives.