The Lower House has passed a draft law establishing the Rwanda Inspectorate, Competition, and Consumer Protection Authority (RICA), an agency that will have the responsibility to check how providers of goods and services conform to standards and handle consumers’ complaints.
RICA will have the responsibility to carry out investigations on anti-competitive trade practices, merger control, and consumer complaints as well as check conformity with standards 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.
However, the body, which is expected to operate as a public institution under supervision of the Ministry in charge of Trade and Industry, will not replace the Rwanda Standards Board (RSB) whose job will remain to set standards for different kinds of goods and services.
The passage of the Bill on Monday was welcomed by most lawmakers, including MP Gabriel Semasaka, deputy chairperson of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture, Livestock and Environment which analysed the draft law.
Semasaka said the creation of RICA will put an end to an apparent conflict of interest, whereby RSB would set up standards and go ahead to control how they were respected.
“Setting up RICA was long overdue because it’s normally the standard way of working since you don’t set standards and be the one to monitor how they are executed,” he said.
But RICA will not be concerned with inspection of food and medical products since the Government will set up another agency, the Rwanda Food and Medicine Authority (RFMA), which was created by a 2013 law but was yet to be established pending the creation of RICA in order to separate duties.
The State Minister in charge of Public Health and Primary Health Care, Dr Patrick Ndimubanzi, said the new legislation will help fast-track the process to set up Rwanda Food and Medicine Authority.
The Authority will be in charge of 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.
“It will help us to better cooperate with similar bodies in other countries. Those who want to try their medicine here will also work with the food and drugs body,” Ndimubanzi said in an interview with The New Times after the draft law was passed.
The creation of Rwanda Food and Medicine Authority had stalled because officials had thought about transferring its responsibilities to RICA even if it was not yet established but when laws to establish it were being reviewed President Paul Kagame asked Parliament to create two separate bodies instead.
In the process to enact RICA’s law, President Kagame requested that the law establishing it be revised where inspection on standards conformity of production process, products and services meant for public use or consumption needed to be separated from food and medicine inspection.