Standards watchdog suspends pre-shipment inspection scheme

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Some of the fake goods impounded by Police in a recent operation. / File.

The decision by government to shelve plans to contract private firms to carry-out pre-shipment inspection for goods destined to Rwanda has raised concern from the business community, especially importers. The exercise was previously being conducted by Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS) a Switzerland-based firm under the Imports Products Conformity Assessment to Standards (IPCA) scheme from mid-2014 till the exercise was suspended late last year. SGS was contracted to carry out the inspections worldwide by RSB about three years ago.

In January 2015, however, the standards watchdog announced it would hire more inspection firms to improve service delivery and efficiency.

Under the scheme, all goods destined for Rwanda were subject to re-shipment inspection from the exporting country to ensure they conformed to standards to avoid dumping and importation of dangerous products. It was especially targeting goods from China, Europe Australia, America, Africa and the Middle East.

However, the new firms recruited by the standards body had over the past year been discussing the terms of the scheme which they said exposed them to huge risks and liability, especially in case of discovery of fake goods from certified products.

It is because of failure to reach a compromise on these disagreements between RSB and the contracted three firms that the standards body decided to phase out the scheme.

Philip Nzaire, the RSB quality assurance director, said the scheme was phased out “majorly on grounds of liability”. He said now RSB will conduct the inspections itself in what it calls “destination inspection” at points of entry.

“The selected inspection firms never wanted to take responsibility in case cleared goods were later found to be sub-standard on further scrutiny by RSB and instead wanted importers to be accountable for such cases,” he noted.

He said the body insisted on stringent terms for inspectors to protect consumers and prevent dumping, adding that they had no choice but to suspend the pre-shipment inspection scheme when the differences could not be reconciled.

He added that the firms had also sought to remit only 18 per cent of the total revenue collected for every cleared consignment and pocket 82 per cent, which “would translate into loss of revenue on the part of government”.

“We are currently training and building our capacity to ensure inspections continue smoothly at the points of entry,” he noted. “This will ensure consumer protection, but most importantly create more jobs for Rwandans,” he added.

Paul Ruhamya, a Kigali-based importer, said the standards body should work with importers to ensure efficiency and weed out fake goods.

Ruhamya said the idea of hiring more firms was to improve service delivery by cutting bureaucracies, especially at border points. He added that delays in inspection of goods remain a major bottleneck faced by local importers.

How IPCA scheme worked

SGS inspected all products bound for Rwanda from the country of origin before they were shipped. If the goods met standards, they were then cleared and the importer issued a certificate of conformity to standards, or rejects them if they did meet standards.