Delay in passing standards law slowing Industry growth

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Prof Alex dodoo CEO GSA
Prof Alex dodoo CEO GSA
Spining

Ghana’s quest to become the number-one trading hub in Africa could end up in an anticlimax if the Standards Authority Bill currently before Parliament is not passed into law with a sense of urgency.

The Bill would address the critical issues of Standardisation and Conformity Assessment by empowering the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) with the requisite legal backing needed to address the current variations of the age-long challenge of substandard goods that flood the country’s markets.

Not only does the presence of such crappy goods pose a grave danger to consumers but they also erode the confidence of consumers in patronizing goods from the Ghanaian markets altogether.

It is a double jeopardy which the GSA has struggled to address because as it stands now, the Authority lacks the legal mandate. It is a shocking reality that has been ignored for far too long.

The GSA turns 55 this year. Over the decades, the only laws it has relied on to operate are the Standards Decree, NRCD 173, 1973 and the Weights and Measures Decree 326 (1975), which makes it the custodian of weights and measures in Ghana.

Both laws do not give the GSA any legal backing whatsoever to be an efficient and effective standards enforcement institution. They are weak and feeble laws that do not even empower the GSA with the rights and powers to punish or sanction businesses that manufacture or import sub-standard goods into the country.

The current laws do not give the GSA the legal backing to impose fines and destroy sub-standard goods that have engulfed the local market.

They basically render the GSA as a toothless lapdog pampering wrong importers and manufactures of low quality goods instead of a barking watchdog with teeth that can bite.

An Authority that is tasked to enforce standards but does not have the powers to sanction offences related to low standards is certainly one that is not worth writing home about.

What The Standards Bill Seeks To Achieve
The proposed Ghana Standards Authority Bill, known as the Standards Bill 2021, is currently before Parliament and was last mentioned at the start of this week when the Deputy Majority Leader, Alexander Afenyo-Markin laid the Business Statement before the House.

“Mr. Speaker of emphasis again is the Ghana Standards Authority Bill and the National Pensions Amendment Bill. The standards Authority Bill is important because all manner of things are trooping into the jurisdiction. All manner of things are trooping in and the scales of industry do not appear to be well balanced. We need a law for such enforcement. So Mr. Speaker that is very important”, Afenyo-Markin noted.

The Bill’s objective is to establish the GSA as the Authority responsible for the establishment and promulgation of standards, enforcement of conformity assessment programmes, and regulation of activities in respect of weights and measures in the country. It further seeks to revise the law relating to standardisation, conformity assessment and metrology.

It also strengthens and expands the Authority’s scope of operations to confront the challenges in relation to standards, conformity assessment and metrology-related programmes due to modernisation and technological development.

The Standards Bill 2021 seeks to consolidate the Standards Authority Act, 1973 (NRCD 173) and the Weights and Measures Act, 1975 (NRCD, 326) into one enactment for effective administration of the GSA’s responsibilities.

Until the Bill gets passed into Law, industry would continue to suffer as all manner of strange goods and products finds its way into Ghana’s free capital market and their low quality comes with low prices that makes it impossible for the well manufactured standard quality products to compete.

Creative Efforts
But the GSA has not thrown its hands in despair and gone to sleep over the challenge.

Management is doing what it can under the current circumstances and has engaged the services of 200 trainees of the Nation Builders Corps (NABCO) to help ensure that imported goods and those manufactured in the country meet acceptable standards.

The enforcement officers, known as the Trading Standards Officers (TSOs), have been drafted in to conduct market surveillance and other activities to weed out fake brands and inject sanity in the trading of goods in the country.

The Authority has kick-started series of training programmes for the TSOs, who are expected to commence work as soon as the exercise is completed.

The TSOs would conduct routine checks or investigate complaints on local traders and businesses.

Beyond their activities to rid the market of substandard goods, the5 TSOs will also advise consumers and businesses on the laws and regulations in relation to standards and investigate suspected offences through undercover 28th surveillance work as well as prepare evidence for prosecution.

Policy On Quality
Cabinet, at its 28th meeting on April 28, this year, approved the National Quality Policy to operationalise a National Quality Infrastructure (NQI). The policy is expected to streamline the operations of actors in the NQI space.

The NQI is a system that spells out how goods and services must be produced to meet acceptable standards by all sectors of the economy, whether private or public.

It will ensure that the production and provision of goods and services meet internationally acceptable quality standards.

The fundamental principle underlying the Policy is that the private sector is the engine of growth, with Government providing an enabling environment designed for the National Quality Infrastructure to thrive over the long term.

The Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry Hon. Michael Okyere Baafi, speaking at the launch of the 11th Association of Ghana Industries’ Quality Awards recently, said the National Quality Policy, together with others, would help the development of modern markets, products and services, while demanding standard and quality requirements as the tenets of the fourth industrial revolution and with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in mind.

Sense of Urgency
One would have wished that Members of Ghana’s Parliament would treat the Standards Bill with some sense of urgency as its delay directly affects the growth of the country’s manufacturing industry.

Talks about achieving an industrialized economy to boost export and provide jobs would continue to remain a wild goose chase if the critical issues of manufacturing standards are not given the requisite attention.

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