Sierra Leone: Standards Bureau and its Invisible Functionality Towards Consumer Protection

opinion

In today's edition, the people have asked the fearless courier to deliver a special message to the Sierra Leone's Standards Bureau informing or better put, reminding them about their statutory mandates and responsibilities towards consumer protection.

The courier will definitely demystify or simplify the statutory functionality of our Standards Bureau so that my grandmother in the last village in "Tondola" will understand what the so-called Standards Bureau is statutorily mandated to do for the people of Sierra Leone. Granma, our supposed-to-be Standards Bureau is manned with statutory responsibilities to vet imported and locally made products in ensuring that they are of best quality and safe for human consumption, but the Standards Bureau has consciously failed to uphold these statutory mandates

As part of its brief historicity, coupled with its statutory role, structure and scope, the Sierra Leone Standards Bureau was created by the Standards Act No. 2 of 1996 (National Provisional Ruling Council Decree, Repeal and Amendment Act No. 3 of 1996), which came into force on the 18th December 1996.

The Bureau became operational on the 24th January, 2000 and carried along the functions of the erstwhile Weights and Measures of the Ministry of Trade and Industry. The Weights and Measures Act No. 22 of 1961 was also created to replace the Weights and Measures Ordinance that existed before Sierra Leone gained its independence. The Bureau is designated as; National Standards Body; National Certification Body; and National Accreditation Body, mandated to assess and confirm that a product conforms to applicable standards and to ensure that companies demonstrate their technical competence in line with national and international best standards. The Sierra Leone Standards Bureau is also the National Statutory body responsible for standardization and Quality Assurance and services for both the Local Market and for export. The Bureau is further mandated to collect and disseminate information on standardization and related matters.

Thus, the overall objectives of the Bureau are as follows: -

To protect the consumer by enhancing awareness campaigns and to facilitate the provision of quality products; to adopt, review, strengthen, promote and enhance standards to ensure consumer protection.

However, it has never been a secret that the Standards Bureau has or is paying lip-service to their statutory mandates and responsibilities especially in the area of consumer protection.

The Sierra Leone Standards Bureau has failed to vet substandard products. A case study of my assertion is the drop of standards in the once highly demanded locally made Sierra juice, Kings production's Mega Cola, Tip Top, Fresh Up, Lemon drinks, which have all lost their qualities and standards. Standards have also fallen tremendously in most of the Sierra Leone Bottling Company's drinks particularly in their Coca Cola, Fanta, Vinto and sprite drinks. Even though the company has closed operations in the country, the quality of its products coming directly from Guinea has lost. Standards have equally fallen in most of the Sachet waters produced in the country with the exception of Grafton Water Company.

In the first three months when Sierra Juice was operationalized, many people had that unprecedented quest to buy and drink Sierra Juice because of its initial standardized qualities and natural flavour by then. Equally so, there was madcap rush and love for the Kings Production products like Mega Cola, Apple Cedar, Fresh-up, Tip-Top etc. For its initial qualities of the drinks produced, but that standard and qualities have long lost in the Kings Production drinks. Another deceitful company that has long deviated from producing quality and standardized drinks is the "Shankadas" and sons company. A case study for "Shankadas" substandard drinks is the Ram Energy drink which has lost absolute quality in taste and our so-called Standards Bureau seems to be very pleased with the appalling drop of standards and qualities in the products of the above-mentioned companies.

It is high time our Standards Bureau started seeking the interests of consumers order than manufacturers of substandard products. The standards Bureau got to uphold their statutory mandated mandates and responsibilities with regards to consumer protection. A close friend of mine was very conscious and cautious yesterday to have noticed that cornflakes he had wanted to buy had expired three months back.

In conclusion, the functionality of the Standards Bureau has been invisible especially in the area of consumer protection. The flotation of sub-standard and expired products in the market has really gained currency. It is high time Standards Bureau got to uphold its statutory mandated mandates gearing towards protecting the interest and wellbeing of consumers across the country. Having said, one will definitely recommend or suggest the following action points to our only-suppose-to-be Standards Bureau:

That our Standards Bureau to look into the current manufacturing and productivity of the Sierra Juice, and take instantaneous action against the drastic drop of standards and qualities in their product. Irrespective of the fact that the Sierra Juice Manufacturer got almost all the raw materials within the country for their products, yet, their initial natural taste in their drinks have degenerated to a mere sugar.

That the Standards Bureau to also look into the manufacturing and productivity of King's production SL Limited, and obliged them to review their entire production in order to regain its initial standards and qualities in their drinks.

That our Standards Bureau MUST give the same directives to "Shakadas" and sons Limited to restore standards and qualities in their drinks especially the Ram energy drink.

That the Standards Bureau MUST embark on periodic monitoring and inspection of all the sachet water companies in order to provide hygienic, pure and tasteless drinking water for us the consumers.

That the Standards Bureau to engage in a massive daily dispatching of product inspection and verification teams/officers cross the country for the traceability of expired products on the street and in shops for sales.

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