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Jobsplus has 12 inspectors to inspect all workplaces in Malta, public inquiry board hears

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There are less than 12 Jobsplus inspectors responsible for inspecting all workplaces across all economic sectors, the public inquiry into Jean Paul Sofia’s death has heard.

When grilled by the board, Vella also said that Jobsplus itself does not inquire about the skills of prospective employees coming from countries outside of the EU. Instead, Vella explained that Jobsplus inspects the employers, making sure that they are in line with the law.

Vella said that Jobsplus does have a compliance unit, where its officers have the legal power to go to a workplace and check that employees are truly working the job that they declare. 

When the board asked Vella how many inspectors the entity has that are able to do this job, she said that Jobsplus has 12 inspectors, and not all of them are able to conduct on-site inspections. The board noted that these 12 inspectors are not only responsible for inspecting the country’s thousands of construction sites, but for all workplaces in Malta and Gozo.

Vella added,“Around two or three years ago we only had six inspectors.”

The Jobsplus CEO also gave the public inquiry data regarding the number of employees who were registered as working within the construction industry. In 2019, Vella explained, there were 16,099 people working within the industry, and the number increased to around 17,670 people in April 2023.

When asked about the number of third-country nationals within the industry during the same period, Vella’s figures show that in 2019, there were 4,210 third-country nationals, which almost doubled to 8,065 people in 2022.

A self-regulated industry

One of the witnesses was Malta Developers’ Association president Michael Stivala, who detailed what judge Zammit McKeon described as, “a self-regulated industry.”

Stivala started by explaining that the MDA represents the vast majority of Malta’s developers and contractors, saying that the idea behind the lobby was to group together all parties involved in the construction industry. The witness was asked if developers and contractors ever experience conflicts of interest, to which he replied, “yes many times.”

Stivala said that there are frequent instances where developers and contractors don’t have written agreements between eachother, which results in conflicts during construction works. 

“How does the MDA resolve these conflicts,” the board asked. The MDA boss replied by implying that the association does not act as a mediator. Stivala went on to say that a developer’s job is simply to appoint the competent professionals needed to carry out a development project, and that the developer is not responsible for any hiccups along the road, as the developer’s role in the process is simply that of an investor.

In fact, Stivala said that the MDA will soon undergo a rebranding exercise, in order to acknowledge the fact that in some cases, the developer is only responsible for the investment behind the project. The MDA, he explained will soon be called the Malta Developments’ Association.

The board inquired about the MDA’s position on regulations regarding licences for contractors, to which Stivala replied that the lobby is heavily in favour of these regulations. “We’ve wanted this more than anyone else, we’ve been asking for this regulation for over eight years,” he said. 

In fact, Stivala noted that the MDA had attempted to create a register in order to keep stock of all operators within the industry. From this exercise, the MDA found that around 65% of all contractors were not insured, and that a number of operators don’t even have a VAT number.

When asked about his thoughts on classifying different types of contractors under different classifications, he said that the MDA was going to propose this a year after the contractors’ licenses were established so as to not “shock the system.”

Stivala noted that government’s regulations regarding the licensing of contractors leave out a crucial element: insurance. The construction mogul reiterated the need for contractors to be insured. 

When asked about the MDA’s members’ training, Stivala stated that the association has its own academy and is ready to train its members’ employees.

After these questions, Judge Zammit McKeon asked the witness, “Do you realise that from what you’ve said, the industry is regulating itself?” Stivala responded in the affirmative.

Lands Authority was not aware of land transfer

The Lands Authority’s CEO, Robert Vella took the witness stand, as the board’s first question revolved around whether or not he was involved in the allocation of the land where Jean Paul Sofia was killed to Allplus Ltd.

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