Years after the law establishing Rwanda Food and Medicine Authority (RFMA) was passed, the institution has not been created. But the Government has not given up on it and now wants it expedited.
The authority was supposed to be charged with monitoring compliance with laws and regulations relating to the safety of food and pharmaceutical products, medical devices, poisons, cosmetics, herbal medicines and other health commodities, including putting in place regulations relating to the importation and manufacture.
Its creation however stalled and the responsibilities were transferred to a yet to be established Rwanda Inspectorate and Competition Authority (RICA).
Appearing before the Lower House, on Monday, Health minister Diane Gashumba said a request was made by President Paul Kagame to separate the responsibilities to give autonomy to each institution since their mandate was not directly related.
“Based on the Constitution, especially in Article 106, President Kagame requested that the law establishing RICA should be revised where inspections on standards conformity of production process, products and services meant for public use or consumption are separated from food and medicine inspection,” she said.
But MP Jean-Marie Vianney Gatabazi wondered who determines the legitimacy of medicine if Rwanda Standards Bureau was not capable of determining what can or cannot be used in that field.
“We have Rwanda Standards Bureau, which I thought was doing all the standards monitoring. If they don’t determine what medicine we can use or not, who then does? I am confused,” Gatabazi said.
Gashumba said, currently, the Government depends on different organisations like the US Food and Drug Administration, which protect and promotes public health through control and supervision of food safety, tobacco products, dietary supplements, prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceutical drugs.
MP Thierry Karemera applauded the move, saying separation of the two was necessary.
“I am glad that finally a decision has been made so this should be an opportunity to review all of them and see what can be included in the review,” he said.
MP Gabriel Semasaka said the separation of the two would put to rest what looks like overlapping of responsibilities.
“It is important that this Bill is fast-tracked because it has been here for almost as long as our term,” he said.
RICA will have the responsibility to carry out investigations on anti-competitive trade practices, merger control, consumer complaints and standards conformity of products and services under its competence within public and private sector institutions and elsewhere as may be considered necessary.
It will also impose administrative sanctions against breach of laws and directives related to competition and consumer protection and standards conformity.
It is expected to operate as a public institution under supervision of the Ministry of Trade and Industry.