The phrase ‘history repeats itself’ could not be more apt when it comes to the profession of the Perit. The Kamra Tal-Periti (KTP) was founded to regulate the access and exercise of the profession, following building collapses leading to fatalities, at the end of the Spanish flu pandemic in 1919. The parallel to this is the new Periti Act was also discussed and approved in parliament also following fatal building collapses in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, a hundred years later, marking the dawn of the renewal of the profession.
The KTP’s mission “is to support members of the profession in achieving excellence in their practice of architecture and engineering in the interest of the community”, which it continues to do until this day.
Periti Act 2000
Fast-forward to the end of the 20th century, the need was being felt to strengthen the self-regularisation of periti. It also introduced the title of ‘perit’ defined in the law as
“the profession assuming responsibility for the design and, or, construction of building works, under the generic title of Perit and includes works in architecture and civil and structural engineering.” - Chapter 390 - Periti Act, 1999.
Changes in the University course in preparation to the profession were also being made in alignment to the Bologna agreement for Universities and Higher Education. The system of the five-year course which locally was the Bachelor’s degree in Engineering and Architecture (B.E.&A.) needed to be restructured in favour of the European system of three years undergraduate and two years masters.
The rapid shifting of the profession due to a construction boom and change in scale of project, shifted professionals to pursue areas of specialisation. These changes triggered the splitting of the warrant into two: the warrant for ‘Perit Arkitett’ and the warrant for ‘Perit Inġinier Ċivili’, and combinations thereof depending on the year when the warrant is obtained. The time had come to start thinking of shifting from and updating the 2000 Periti Act based on the changes initiated by the Faculty for the Built Environment and other system changes taking place on an academic level. The KTP also wanted to upgrade profession such that it is more in line with the larger projects that were now being designed in Malta.
The long 14-year journey
Akin to Napoleon’s crossing of the Alps, Lewis and Clark's crossing of America or Frodo’s journey to Mordor, periti surely can understand the long journey – and frustration – of the route to update the Periti Act, which took no less than 14 years.
Malta’s ascension to the European Union in 2004 and the introduction of the Services Directive introduced in 2006 the Government was in dire straits to update this act following the receipt of several infringement notices from the European Union mainly based around the incompatibility with the services directive including issues of shareholding, establishment of commercial entities and non-compliance with the professional qualifications’ directive. Over the next few years, the main focus was in framing the legislative effort in terms of the European Directives and securing consent on the draft bill that was going to be presented to parliament.
Following the Local Plans published in 2006, a government initiative was launched, to ‘rationalise’ the spaces between developments in Outside Development Zones (ODZ). This process was nicknamed ‘The Rationalisation’ which KTP was vehemently against. It is believed that KTP’s reaction against this initiative is the reason why the Periti Act was not read in parliament in 2007-2008. The 2013 election brought about a change in National Administration which meant that the discussions needed to start afresh.
By 2017 however, the infringements with the EU were addressed, the sections of the bill that concerned the warranted where locked, and the conversations with government to present the new act in parliament ensued. The focus then shifted to the subsequent parts of the bill, namely related to the Kamra and the conduct board. The discussions with the government were almost finalised, when the government re-shuffled and the discussions needed to start yet again.
Periti Act 2021
The KTP’s ambition was that the act gets approved in parliament in time for our centenary in 2020. One of the more significant changes is the separation of the lists for the two main disciplines of the profession. The ‘Perit Arkitett’ aligns better with the title of ‘Architect’ in accordance with Directive 2005/36/EC, on the recognition of professional qualifications, and the ‘Perit Inġinier Ċivili’ aligns with Europe-wide standards on the training of civil engineers. This will facilitate the process of mutual professional recognition.
Another main challenge was the role of the KTP vis-à-vis conduct. The reason for the formation of the KTP was to regulate the behaviour and practice of the members of the profession, and to exercise discipline on these members, if necessary, which is unique among the professions. This was the reason why this point, in particular, was discussed at length with government. Due to the increasing number of members, as well as the increase in the complexity of projects and periti’s role in the projects, the KTP needed to evolve and required assistance in this regard. The formation of the Periti Professional Conduct Board was key in ensuring that the profession remains self-regulating and it consists of experienced members of the profession.
Professional liability is also an important change from the Periti Act of 2000. While to-date the liability period as stipulated by the Civil Code is of 15 years, the new Act will ensure that all members of the profession (including periti partnerships) are covered by a Professional Indemnity Insurance Policy.
In order to practice the profession, the perit will need to annually apply for a certificate to practise, in addition to having a warrant. While the Warrant is issued by the Warranting Board, the certificate to practise will be issued by the KTP upon the presentation of valid Professional Indemnity Insurance and proof of the required continued professional development. A stamp will be issued with this certificate to practise bearing the name and registration number of the perit or partnership.
These changes in the Periti Act will bring the profession at par with other European Member States as well as increase the awareness regarding the risks and their management by periti both on the drawing board and on site, while achieving the ultimate aim of the profession of ensuring public safety.
The path ahead
The approval of the Periti Act in parliament was just the first step in the renewal of the profession. Discussions are still ongoing with government as to how the phasing of the Act will be done. This includes the setting up of the certificates to practice, further information on the professional indemnity insurance, the required hours of continual professional development that would need to be undertaken, as well as the updates of all the related subsidiary legislations that concern the profession, such as the warranting board and mutual recognitions with other European member states.
To help with this process, the KTP has set up 6 permanent committees on architecture, engineering, urban planning, property management, heritage, and business. The committees are tasked with assisting the KTP council in achieving all the above within a reasonable timeframe. The efforts in this will be in revitalising the profession of the Perit by encouraging research, innovation and sustainability in ensuring the public’s physical and mental wellbeing in all projects, keeping the professionals updated with technologies and information pertaining to their area of specialisation and thus reflecting the dynamic nature of the profession.
The author would like to thank the current Executive Council of the KTP as well as the College of Past Presidents for the time they dedicated to share this information and for their support in the next steps in phasing in the New Periti Act.
Jeanette studied architecture and civil engineering at the University of Malta and went on to read for a Masters and PhD in Structural Engineering at Imperial College London.
She uses her experience in working in industry both in the UK and Malta within her lecturing and mentoring roles with both undergraduate and postgraduate students.
Her areas of research interest are instability of structures, and the interdisciplinary approach to the fusion of architecture and engineering by way of enhancing the experience and well-being of the ultimate user of the project.
She is a council member of the Kamra tal-Periti since 2016 where she acts as representative on the ECCE, FEANI and Inġiniera Malta as well as a member of the UIA Committee "International Women in Architecture". Jeanette is also the national representative of the IABSE.
DISCLAIMER: The content of this article does not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry.