More trouble for consumers…As GSA threatens new inspection charges


Ghanaians living abroad and traders importing goods into the country, from October 1st this year, will be liable to fees payable in advance for the inspection of their goods.

They will also have to possess Certificate of Conformity (CoC) by Societe Generale de Surveillance (SGS).

This is the outcome of a new contract signed between Ghana Standard Authority (GSA) and Societe Generale to ensure the quality of the products, as well as the health, safety and environmental protection of Ghanaian consumers.

The contract document titled: ‘Guidelines of Imports for the Trade’ explained further that the new fees payable in advance by exporters were exclusive of VAT and any other local tax which would be charged by agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) and the Port Health who were all at the ports duplicating one another’s roles and charging fees.

The GSA made it clear in the document that traders and exporters whose shipments were done from October without a CoC would be subject to penalty.

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

The group of traders have, therefore, in a petition dated September 3 and titled: ‘Petition to suspend Ghana Conformity Assessment Programme (G-CAP),’ which was addressed to the Speaker of Parliament, stated that the proposed scheme is not only a repetition of a role already performed by Food and Drug Authority (FDA) but ‘a programme that will seriously be inimical for the well-being of Ghana, its economy and the populace.”

The duplication of duties by Ghanaian agencies at the ports is suffocating businesses, the traders lamented.

‘Even though it will appear that the target is suppliers of goods and services, the resultant effect is that the cost is always passed on to the consumers who are ordinary Ghanaians.’

All the agencies at the ports, the traders pointed out, have the same guidelines for the establishment of food industries or for the registration of prepackaged foods. 

In what appears to be a battle for supremacy, the Ghana Standards Authority (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 traders were of the view that apart from Parliament, ministries, departments and agencies especially at the country’s ports have no right without Parliamentary approval to impose new taxes, fees, levies and charges in the country.

According to them, this constitutional provision is, however, being flouted by agencies especially at the ports in the country where the duplication of duties by Ghanaian agencies at the ports is suffocating businesses.  

They warned that GSA was also seeking to take the country back to the 1980s and to the days of pre-shipment inspection, and that GSA had already entered into a contract with the local representatives of Societe Generale 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,’ they explained.

In spite of the presence of these DICs, FDA recently introduced a new regulation that requires all suppliers of goods to pay a fee of US$20,000 so that representatives of FDA can travel to the countries of origin of the goods for inspection, the traders disclosed to the paper.

According to them, GSA has also contracted a new company to do pre-shipment at the countries of origin of these same goods making Ghana to 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 traders alleged that the GSA Pre-Shipment Contract gave an absolute and dangerous monopoly to SGS.

For example, the GSA will charge some fees in the pre-shipment exercise; some of them being verification fees of between US$200 and US$300 and registration fees of US$300 and US$375 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 document traders pointed out.

The turf war between 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, the traders said.

Even though the new policy has not been passed by the Parliament of Ghana, the GSA is in hurry to introduce the policy this October even though no education has been done on the policy, and nobody knows the category of goods and services that will be affected. Yet GSA is pushing to implement the policy, the document stated.

‘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 document stated.

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 other’s 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, the traders lamented.

Some of them have even succeeded in introducing new fees and charges without recourse to Parliament under the guise that they are semi-autonomous organisations. Only the parliament has the right to approve taxes, fees, levies or charges in the country but this constitutional provision was being flouted and the traders called on Parliament to act.

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