Polidano and Portelli in blame game after being fined for Psaila Street site mayhem

Two of Malta’s largest construction conglomerates have engaged in a public tit for tat after both were fined by the Building Construcion Agency after after stones from a construction site in Birkirkara were seen falling into the street


Two of Malta’s largest construction conglomerates have engaged in a public tit for tat after both were fined by the Building Construcion Agency (BCA) after after stones from a construction site in Birkirkara were seen falling into the street.

The BCA fined Excel Ltd €3,150 and Polidano €5,000 over irregularities connected to the demolition of the Go Exchange building in Psaila Street.

Polidano is listed as a contractor of the project on the site notice while Excel, a company owned by construction magnate Joseph Portelli, is the developer.

Wednesday afternoon, Polidano Brothers issued a statement rebutting an earlier statement by Joseph Portelli’s Excel Limited.

Excel Limited had announced that they were terminating their engagement with the contractor after it failed to abide by the method statement prepared by architect Maria Schembri Grima.

"The contractor failed to abide by the said method statement and was careless and reckless in the execution of the works."

But Polidano reacted by saying that they were always following the instructions of professionals engaged by Portelli’s group which had sub-contracted them to carry out specialised demolition works.

A €2,000 fine was also imposed against site technical officer David Muscat but none were imposed against project architect Maria Schembri Grima, who on Tuesday resigned from her post as BCA Chairman due to a conflict of interest.

According to current law the project architect - in this case Maria Schembri Grima - is designated as the "warranted professional assuming the responsibility for the execution of the project approved in the development permit”.

The Contractor is the "individual/entity engaged by the Developer to execute the works” and the site technical officer (STO) - in this case, David Muscat - "is the individual nominated by the contractor and is responsible for the implementation of the method statement which is prepared by the Perit”.

Moreover "where breaches by the Contractor occur, the STO has to “immediately stop any ongoing works and inform the Perit in charge together with the BCA". When an STO is served with an Enforcement Notice, he/she shall immediately inform the Contractor and the Perit and see that it is complied with.

Contacted by sister newspaper MaltaToday, Kamra tal-Periti President Andre Pizzuto made it clear that its investigation on the case is not limited to the role of former BCA chairman Maria Schembri Grima but also aimed at establishing the role of the other players in the case including the site technical officer and the contractor.

While pointing out that the Chamber never approved of having a practising architect at the helm of the BCA due to a potential or perceived conflict of interest, he explained that in earlier comments to the Times he was not even aware who was the STO in the case as this information was not even available.

Moreover, he said, the case exposes the limitations of the current regulatory system which the investigation will also look in to.

“The system is broken and is aimed at minimising costs for the developers while putting all responsibilities on architects but not on contractors,” Pizzuto said.

He also insisted that the system can only work if a register for contractors is introduced in a way that contractors who flagrantly break the rules would be struck off from the register.

According to Pizzuto this is the only way to ensure that contractors start respecting the rules, fearing financial repercussions.

He also reprimanded government for still procrastinating on enacting this register, despite widespread agreement among stake holders in the sector, including the Malta Developers Association.

Back in November, Minister for Public Works and Planning Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi had announced that the publication of draft regulations on licensing of contractors for public consultation was imminent.

“The indecency in this case is in everyone’s face," Pizzuto said.

"The fact that a public road was considered as an extension of the site speaks volumes and is symptomatic of the culture prevailing in this sector especially among some contractors."

Polidano blames Portelli

Polidano Brothers contended that, when carrying out the works, they followed the method statement by erecting a boundary hoarding wall to seclude the site from the adjacent areas, while the adjacent road was closed to serve as an “exclusion zone” due to the nature of the works being carried out.

The company also claimed it always “acted in accordance with the instructions of the developer (Portelli) as well as their architect and site technical officer who were appointed to supervise and monitor all aspects of the project”.   

“Polidano will not accept a situation whereby the developer seeks to shirk their legal and moral responsibilities and shift blame onto a sub-contractor when they themselves were duty-bound to oversee the project and intervene if any actions were not being carried out according to their instruction,” Polidano General Manager Ian Napier said.

Napier also announced that the Polidano Group will also be “reviewing” its relationship with Portelli while describing a €5,000 fine imposed on it by the Building Construction Authority as “both unjustified and unwarranted”.

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