The public inquiry into the tragedy of Jean Paul Sofia reiterated the serious institutional deficiencies and the lax enforcement of existing regulations.

The conclusions echoed those of the magisterial inquiry published last summer which revealed a complete collapse in construction industry standards and procedures especially in planning and structural aspects, as well as toothless enforcement.

While the magisterial inquiry aimed to shed light on those who could have been criminally responsible, the public inquiry analyzed the manner in which State institutions handled the issue as stake. In other words, it tried to establish if this was also a result of poor governance.

The following are some of the shortcomings which emerged from the public inquiry:

  • Allplus Limited, the company allotted the public land to build the factory in Kordin where the tragedy occurred had only been operating in the furniture sector for five months during which the value of of orders received was of  €45,000. (the cost to furnish a room with good quality items these days might cost €10,000 or more). In a nutshell they had very little experience in the field. Nonetheless they still qualified to receive a plot of 300 square meters! “It was a project without objective and substantial technical and financial assurances and it was not endorsed by a financial expert in the sector.”
  • The investors were not asked to present development plans for the factory they were planning to construct.
  • The pledged investment of €262,500 which comprises the building and the machinery was unrealistically low.
  • The level of due diligence carried out on the applicants was very weak if any, so much so that it later emerged, they had no experience in the furniture industry. “If the Board of Malta Enterprise were to adopt the approval criteria that Chief Executive Kurt Farrugia testified about, the project should have never been approved. The project did not make sense as an investment, it would not lead to the creation of the promised jobs, apart from the fact that the checks carried out were not rigorous at all.”
  • Enforcement by the Building Construction Agency was so toothless that the average value of fines imposed when irregularities were found in construction sites was around €500 or less.
  • Authorities do not talk to each other about any deficiencies they come across as they are more intent to pass the buck whenever such issues are not deemed to be their direct responsibility.
  • Malta Enterprise and INDIS did not honour their obligations as required by law law and did not adhere to the rules of good governance.

The board of inquiry summed up all this with the phrase ‘comedy of errors’ although in reality this was a tragedy.