THE establishment of a strong standards body in developing economies is crucial for building a strong domestic industrial sector to speed up economic growth and poverty alleviation.
Standards are crucial for increasing efficiency, an issue highlighted as global challenge like sustainability and financial uncertainty where respective organisations are tasked to achieve better results with less waste. Despite having in place the Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS), Tanzania still face an uphill struggle to control and eliminate substandard goods in the market which strangle domestic industries, jobs and denying the government substantial revenue.
The Confederation of Tanzania Industries (CTI) Executive Director Ms Christine Kilindo said in an interview last week that where influx of substandard goods is massive, local and domestic investors are seriously discouraged to inject their capital into the manufacturing sector.
"The issue of substandard commodities in the market is of serious concern and if measures to address it lack, manufacturing sector will suffer and adversely on the economy," she said. She also called upon the standards watchdog to take stern legal measures against traders who import substandard goods to make quick gains, saying the malpractice contributes towards killing domestic industries and robs the government of revenue.
She said local businesses are to be blamed for continually importing substandard goods without considering adverse effects on the economy and the health of consumers. She said CTI was behind the Pre-shipment Verification of Conformity (PVoC) by the TBS aimed at controlling certain categories of imported consumer goods.
The PVoC Standards Programme is a conformity assessment and verification procedure applied to specific products at the respective exporting countries, to ensure their compliance with the applicable Tanzanian Technical Regulations and Mandatory Standards or approved equivalents. Official data from CTI indicates that the nation incurs losses of between 15 and 25 per cent of the total domestic revenue annually, and between 540bn/- and 900bn/-annually in tax evasions related to counterfeits and substandard goods are concealed.
Some of the substandard goods frequently imported include television sets, radio cassette recorders, radio sets, electric cables, pirated digital video discs (DVDs), human medicines, body creams, skin lotions, toothpastes, dry cells and motor vehicle spare parts.
Consequently, consumers began to complain about products that are faulty, have an amazingly short life-span and are posing health hazards to them. TBS is responsible for the adoption and application of the standards for both imported and domestically manufactured products in the Tanzanian market.
However in recent days, the standard watchdog has failed to stand firm in curbing importation of substandard goods. Due to the sensitivity of the instrument, the Minister of Industry and Trade, Dr Abdallah Kigoda last week dissolved the TBS board of directors for failure to meet the set goals and objectives necessary to putting domestic market clean from substandard commodities.
"Inefficiencies and lack of accountability in the standard watchdog are among the reasons for the dissolution of the board of directors," remarked Dr Kigoda while speaking to journalists over the weekend. He said failure by TBS to perform its duties and responsibilities has adverse and direct impacts on people's lives.
"The decision to disband the TBS board of directors basically aims at enhancing productivity in regulating the standards of goods," he said, adding that, "We will be very keen in forming a new instrument that will deliver according to the set goals and objectives."
Standards facilitate everybody's access to products, structures and services. They include safety considerations, ergonomics and harmonized test methods all geared towards increasing accessibility. The former head of standards watchdog, Mr Charles Ekelege, was suspended to pave way for investigations over a number of irregularities and financial mismanagement in TBS, based on the Controller and Auditor General (CAG)) report.
In an interview, Mr Oliver Mhaiki, the chairman of the suspended board of directors said he was unaware of the reasons behind the minister's decision to disband the board, "We were performing our duties properly, I don't know the reasons that prompted the minister's decision." With regards to the post of the board's chairperson, who is the presidential appointee, Mr Mhaiki said it was upon the authority to decide on his fate.
Apart from the chairperson, other board members who comprised the disbanded board are Mr Donald Chidowu, Mr Rashid A Salim, Dr Bertha Maegga, Mr Odilo Majengo, Prof Ntengua Mdoe, Mr Peter Machunde, Mr Godfrey Mariki, Ms Suzy Laizer, Ms Elpina Mlaki, Mr George Simbachawene and the suspended director General.
The minister's decision should be taken as one of the government concerted efforts to deal with the problem of substandard goods, failure to which the economy will live to suffer the consequences. It is also important to involve wananchi in finding a permanent solution, as they are the most affected, before our country is turned into a dumping ground of substandard and counterfeit goods.