Minister says Sofia inquiry report will be discussed in parliament ‘immediately’ after publication

Prime Minister Robert Abela will be receiving the Jean Paul Soifia Public Inquiry conclusions on Wednesday

Jean Paul Sofia was killed in December 2022 when a building under construction collapsed (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)
Jean Paul Sofia was killed in December 2022 when a building under construction collapsed (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

Parliament will be discussing the findings of the Public Inquiry into the death of construction site victim Jean Paul Sofia “immediately”, the Justice Minister has confirmed.

On Monday, it was announced that the report was to be given to the Prime Minister at 10:00am on Wednesday 28 February. Shortly after this, Jean Paul Sofia's family will also receive a copy of the report.

In a parliamentary question, Opposition leader Bernard Grech asked Justice Minister Jonathan Attard to confirm whether the inquiry report will be discussed in the House on Wednesday, and to commit to implementing all the recommendations laid out in the report.

Attard confirmed that an immediate debate on the report will be held “immediately”, with government requesting a debate on the subject in the House. Parliament will be meeting on Wednesday, but it’s not yet clear whether the report will be discussed on the day.

He also said that the terms of reference establish the parliament’s role in implementing the recommendations, with another parliamentary debate held a year on from the its publishing as a form of “stock take”.

Road to the Public Inquiry

Jean Paul Sofia, 20, died on 3 December 2022 when a building still under construction at the Corradino Industrial Estate collapsed. 

Five people – the project architect, two developers and two contractors – were charged in July 2023 with involuntary homicide, forgery and falsification, and negligence. The cases against them are ongoing. 

Sofia’s parents had demanded a public inquiry be held to establish whether their son’s death was also the result of failings by the State to regulate the construction industry properly. 

The Prime Minister had refused the request and the Labour Party parliamentary group had even voted against an Opposition motion in parliament to set up a public inquiry.

The parliamentary session saw Sofia’s suffering parents confront government MPs about their decision to refuse a public inquiry, in scenes that caused public outrage. 

Abela eventually recanted a few days later just before a large protest was called outside Auberge de Castille. 

The public inquiry was tasked to probe several aspects, including how the public land where the collapsed building stood was transferred to the developers; whether the State had put in place laws to regulate health and safety in the construction sector and whether these were effectively enforced; and whether any State entity tasked with enforcing and regulating the construction sector failed in its duties. 

The inquiry board was also asked to make recommendations to strengthen health and safety procedures on construction sites. 

According to the terms of reference the Prime Minister is obliged to publish the inquiry report within three days of receiving it and if he fails to do so, the board has the authority to publish it itself. 

The board concluded its hearings in November last year, giving the Sofia family and the State Advocate until the end of December to make written observations. 

The board heard 69 witnesses, resulting in around 1,000 pages of transcripts. Additionally, the board also had some 1,800 pages of documents.  

The board’s chair, Joseph Zammit McKeon had said back then that the inquiry report will be sent to the Prime Minister by 28 March, 2024.