Architects, developers agree government has dragged its feet on building contractors’ register

Xtra on TVM | Planning Minister Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi says government will introduce a Bill to regularise building contractors but stakeholders agree there has been too much dragging of the feet

Architects and developers agree the government has been dragging its feet to regularise building contractors through the creation of a licencing regime.

Malta Developers Association President Michael Stivala and Kamra tal-Periti President André Pizzuto said on Monday four years have passed since the licencing requirement was first floated.

“We have numerous debates, and the will is there, but when it comes to the government putting it into action, we fall short,” Stivala said on TVM’s Xtra.

The same sentiment was shared by PN planning spokesperson Stanley Zammit. “We've been talking about licensing since 2019, we should not have waited so long,” Zammit said.

Planning Minister Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi confirmed government will be tabling a new Bill regulating building contractors in March. He did not elaborate.

The issue surrounding the licensing of contractors surfaced recently after the Building and Construction Agency issued a stop notice for excavation works on a Joseph Portelli project where the agency’s former chair, Maria Schembri Grima, is also the architect.

As the law stands today, contractors do not need a licence to operate and various stakeholders have been calling for the sector to be regularised.

The first pledge was made by then planning minister Ian Borg in 2019. He had imposed an end-of-year deadline, but the law never materialised.

A similar pledge was made by former parliamentary secretary for construction Chris Agius in January 2021. He said that the setting up of the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), tasked with regulating the sector, would eventually lead to the licensing of contractors.

André Pizzuto said licensing is important but must be followed with the centralisation of standards.

Pizzuto believes there are too many entities involved in the planning and construction process. “Everyone is inventing procedures to justify their existence.”

Zrinzo Azzopardi defended the government's action by citing studies which should eventually help address issues holistically.