Source: Govt, industry haggle over Bureau Veritas | The Sunday Mail May 29, 2016
GOVERNMENT, which last year engaged Bureau Veritas to check on the quality of imported goods, is so far happy with the work of the Paris-based concern, but importers are dismayed by “unnecessary delays” that it is allegedly causing.
The consignment-based conformity assessment (CBCA) contract awarded to Bureau Veritas by the Industry and Commerce Ministry is designed to reduce importation of hazardous and substandard substances, including improving the collection of customs duty.
Industrialists, however, say the system – which came into effect on March 1 – is fuelling smuggling and causing unnecessary border delays. All imports valued at more than US$1 000 are now obliged to have a CBCA certificate prior to shipment into country.
Industry Minister Mike Bimha said Government was impressed by the quality control checks conducted by Bureau Veritas.
“At least suppliers now know what we want as a country – quality – and they will work towards that and improve their products. That way we protect consumers from cheap imports,” said Minister Bimha.
It is understood there are several consignments that were disqualified for failure to meet set standards.
lmports that require certification include engineering equipment, food, petroleum, fuel, building materials, automotive and transportation, packaging products, toys, timber, body and healthcare products, electronics, among many other goods.
Without the certificate – modelled to World Trade Organisation specifications – imported goods are denied entry into Zimbabwe.
However, industry is bitter.
“The system has caused delays in goods clearing at several port of entries, a situation that is promoting smuggling,” said Shipping and Forwarding Agents Association of Zimbabwe chief executive Mr Joseph Musariri.
Motor industry representatives concur.
At a recent Industrial Development Policy formulation workshop held in Harare, motor industry representative Mr Luckson Gwara blamed the certification process for causing smuggling especially of vehicle tyres.
“Bureau Veritas are not helping us or industry. It seems there is now more smuggling going on,” he said.
World Navi MD Mr Stanley Makombe said giving such a huge contract to a single company inevitably led to the current challenges.
“People do not want to be delayed; once they experience delays, this slows down business and naturally people do not want that, it takes us a step backward.
“This was a very big contract and giving it to a single company creates lots of inefficiencies in the system,” said Mr Makombe.
But Government is of the opinion that the present challenges are merely teething problems.
“People have problems because this is something still new, goods piled at the border because people did not know although we have been doing awareness programmes,” said Minister Bimha.
Bureau Veritas is running similar programmes in 29 other countries in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
Zimbabwe imports goods worth US$6 billion annually against exports of US$3 billion, according to official statistics.
Until recently, there had been no stringent conditions tied to the quality of imports, a situation that promoted the influx of cheap goods that choked domestic production and widened the national current account deficit.