Maputo — The Mozambican government's National Inspectorate of Economic Activities (INAE) ordered the closure of 30 establishments out of the 382 inspected over the past 15 days, according to the INAE General Inspector, Maria Freitas, cited in Tuesday's issue of the independent newssheet “Mediafax”.
All but two of the establishments closed were restaurants or bakeries, and the motives were lack of hygiene and cleanliness.
“In general, the problems that determined the closures are those that we already know about, namely serious problems with hygiene and cleanliness”, said Freitas. “And when we note problems that put public health at risk, we have no option but to close the establishment”.
She thought it very sad that so many businesses handling food continued to have serious difficulties with basic hygiene. The INAE offensive has been under way for more than a month, and has been highly publicized in the Mozambican media. The fact that inspectors continue to find serious health problems in the places they inspect, Freitas added, shows that many business people are not concerned about regularizing their situation.
Freitas said that many more establishments would be inspected if INAE had enough staff. But it is currently operating with a serious shortage of inspectors. The establishments closed over the past fortnight are located all over the country - in Maputo city and province, Inhambane, Sofala, Tete, Nampula, Niassa, Zambezia and Manica.
Some bakeries have hit on a novel way of avoiding the inspectors. Freitas said they operate only at night, and close their doors in the early morning. “This shows bad faith on the part of some bakeries, but, with the help of the consumers, we shall put things in order”, promised Freitas.
She noted that, at the recent meeting between INAE and the Mozambican Association of Bakers (AMOPAO), some bakers had complained about the pictures of their workplaces shown on Mozambican television screens. But Freitas defended the work of the media, and said the television footage was crucial in exposing a sad reality that is endangering the health of consumers.
“They raised complaints because, as you know, thieves never admit that they are stealing”, said Freitas. “Some AMOPAO members are not pleased with the publication of these images, but we stress that they are important. We need to show the consumers that a particular establishment is operating in critical hygiene conditions”.
Freitas admitted there have been problems with corruption among some inspectors, and she urged businesses to denounce any attempt by inspectors to demand bribes.
She was reacting to the announcement last week by the Central Office for the Fight against Corruption (GCCC) that an INAE inspector was arrested when caught red-handed receiving a bribe of 8,000 meticais (about 118 US dollars) from the manager of a Maputo shop.
Freitas believed that the practice of demanding bribes was deeply rooted among some inspectors, and insisted that businesses facing such extortion should immediately contact the GCCC. “These situations damage all the work that INAE is doing”, she said.