More Trouble For Consumers…GSA Threatens New Inspection Charges

In what appears to be a battle for supremacy, the Ghana Standards Board (GSA) will from October 1, 2014 introduce its own set of rules and regulations for the assessment of all products and services and charge their own fees even though the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) is already doing the same.

The GSA is also seeking to take the country back to the 1980’s and to the days of Pre-Shipment Inspection. Information reaching this paper shows that GSA has entered into a contract with the local representatives of SocieteGenerale de Surveillance (SGS) to carry out pre-shipment inspection at a cost to the consumer even though there are Destination Inspection Companies (DICs) who are already doing the inspection at a cost.

Indeed Ghana by law abandoned the Pre-Shipment inspection of goods in the 1990’s and introduced Destination Inspection Companies (DICs) with Scanners and all at all ports to carry out the inspection and assessment of goods for a fee.

Inspite of the presence of these DICs, the FDA recently introduced a new regulation that requires all suppliers of goods to pay a fee of Twenty Thousand US Dollars (USD20,000) so that representatives of FDA can travel to the countries of origin of the goods for inspection.

And now the GSA has also contracted a new company to do pre-shipment at the countries of origin of these same goods. So now Ghana will have two of its institutions doing pre-shipment of goods and then at the ports here in Ghana the DICs will do the third inspection of the same goods all at a cost to the consumer. The GSA Pre-Shipment Contract gives an absolute and dangerous monopoly to SGS. (We will return to this subject later).

According to documents sighted by the SCANDAL the GSA will charge several fees in the pre-shipment exercise. Some of them are;verification fees of 200 to 300 hundred dollars and registration fees 375 dollars and 300 dollars per inspection of used vehicles.

All these fees will be payable in advance and shall be paid regardless of whether after the assessment of the goods the shipment does not qualify for the conformity certificate or even if the exporter decides to abandon the shipment.

The turf war between the GSA and FDA has reached its zenith and the two are bent on aggravating the already high cost of living that many Ghanaians are experiencing. Even though it will appear that the target is suppliers of goods and services, common sense tells us that the cost is always passed on to the consumers.

Even though the new policy has not been passed by the Parliament of Ghana, the GSA is in hurry to kick start the policy this October. “They are in a hurry to get their ‘kick back’ from the inspection company and that is why they are rushing”, a Tema-based Industrialist (name withheld) alleged in an interview with the SCANDAL.

He said no education has been done on the policy, and nobody knows the category of goods and services that will be affected and yet the GSA is pushing to implement the policy. He opined that small scale importers like women traders who travel to China and Dubai to import goods will be thrown out of business if the new GSA policy is allowed to come into force.

The duplication of duties by Ghanaian Agencies at the ports is suffocating businesses but it appears no one cares to streamline the process. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drugs Board (FDA) the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) and the Port Health are all at the ports duplicating each others’ roles and charging fees to the discomfort of the consumer. All these Agencies have the same guidelines for the establishment of food Industries or for the registration of prepackaged foods.

Some of them have even succeeded in introducing new fees and charges without recourse to the Parliament of Ghana under the guise that they are semi autonomous organizations. Only the parliament of Ghana has the right to approve Taxes, fees, levies or charges in the country but is this constitutional.

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