Blood on their hands

When speaking on the report of the public inquiry into the circumstances which led to the death of Jean Paul Sofia, Robert Abela, the Prime Minister, emphasised that he expected that those who were singled out in the said report are to shoulder their responsibility. He also established a deadline by which he expected that they submit their resignation.

Some have been singled out by name. Others through membership of decision taking bodies whose actions were censored by the Board of Inquiry. In fact, it adds up to more than has been pinpointed by the Prime Minister.

At the time of writing, we were informed that David Xuereb has resigned his Chairmanship of the Occupational Health and Safety Authority (OHSA), Peter Borg has resigned from Deputy Chairman of Malta Enterprise. In addition Victor Carachi and Paul Abela have resigned from the Malta Enterprise Investment Committee and the Committee itself has been abolished.

We were also informed that after the publication of the Inquiry’s report, Kevin Camilleri, the Head of the micro-enterprise unit of Malta Enterprise was dismissed from his post.

The report of the inquiry identified a multitude of persons, executives and institutions who in one way or another contributed to the developing mess which we call the building industry. Each one of them who turned a blind eye, or was absent from his post at crucial moments, or took decisions without a proper consideration of its implications should shoulder his/her responsibilities and resign.

I would go one further step: it is not enough to resign from the posts subject to the inquiry’s scrutiny. Each one of them should resign from all their public postings.

The report of the public inquiry, however went much further than identifying those involved and analysing in depth their operations. It did this in view of the fact that all these appointees where entrusted to ensure that the state shoulders adequately its responsibilities through a focused regulation of the industry.  

Yet we got to know that Jobs Plus has more members on its Board than it has inspectors. Also, we got confirmation that enforcement is weak everywhere, right through the building industry.

The Board of Inquiry has gone through all of the operations and identified those accountable. At the end of the day, when the dust has settled, however, the buck stops on the desk of the Prime Minister and his Cabinet of Ministers. 

The next step is to ask the members of the executive whether they ever sought to ensure that the public officers, executives and other appointees which they entrusted to regulate the building industry carried adequately their assignment. We know, not just through the inquiry’s report, that the executives in charge of the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) and the Occupational Health and Safety Authority (OHSA) have repeatedly requested funding to build up their inspectorate as well as their enforcement capacity. It was not forthcoming. Plans for beefing up the organisations remained a paper exercise.

Are not the respective Ministers accountable for this?

Isn’t Minister Stefan Zrinzo-Azzopardi, until recently politically responsible for the building industry, responsible for the current state of the BCA? In particular for changing without justification its senior executive team in a most critical of times?

Minister Silvio Schembri and Minister Miriam Dalli were at different times responsible for Malta Enterprise and its appendages. At no point in time did they indicate an interest in the manner of operation of the Malta Enterprise Investment Committee and the extent to which public funds were properly used and accounted for. The manner in which the decision relative to the Corradino site was arrived at  is indicative that possibly there could be much more. It is logical to assume that proper oversight is lacking as such blatant irresponsible decisions would not otherwise crop up out of the blue. 

The inquiry, at the end of the day is about the responsibility of the state to regulate the building industry. A responsibility which the state of Malta has failed to live up to. Robert Abela and his team at Castille Place are at the end of the day accountable for this failure. He does not need deadlines to own up to this failure.

Prime Minister Robert Abela tried to avoid all this by forcefully obstructing the commencement of the public inquiry. He knew, generally, what the conclusions would be, as the problems addressed by the inquiry have been with us for ages, ignored continuously. It is a failure in governance, a failure in management of the state of its very basic responsibilities.

Isn’t it about time that Abela and his team at least apologise to the nation for their incompetence? As a result of this, they have blood on their hands.

Carmel Cacopardo
ADPD Deputy Chairperson
Published in The Malta Independent – Sunday 3 March 2023