Govt to cut uninspected imported goods penalty Mr Malunga

Oliver Kazunga

Senior Business Reporter

THE Government will from next month reduce the penalty levied on goods that enter the country without going through pre-shipment inspection in the country of origin from 15 percent to 12 percent.

Goods under the list of regulated products are required to undergo pre-shipment inspection and assessment for conformity to national and global standards to protect Zimbabwean consumers against dangerous or suboptimal products as well as improving the quality of products through applicable standards and regulations.

The goods that fall under the regulated list for conformity inspections and assessments include a wide range of electrical and electronic products (among them solar products, lighting appliances), construction materials and appliances, footwear, clothing accessories, automotive products and spare parts, petrol, diesel, gas containers, and food products.

So far, where such goods arrive at the country’s ports of entry, without pre-shipment inspection in the country of origin, they attract a penalty fee of 15 percent on the Cost, Insurance and Freight (CIF) value of the shipment.

Speaking during a Consignment Based Conformity Assessment (CBCA) awareness workshop organised by Bureau Veritas Zimbabwe in Harare last week, the firm’s contracts manager Mr Tendai Malunga said: “With effect from March 1, 2024 the penalty charged on goods that arrive at the country’s ports of entry without pre-shipment will be reduced from 15 percent to 12 percent.”

Bureau Veritas is a French-based and global standards firm that was contracted by the Government in 2015 to conduct pre-shipment inspections and assessments on regulated imports.

According to data from the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, nearly 155 million units of substandard products have been rejected in Zimbabwe since the implementation of the CBCA programme in 2015.

Consequently, this has seen the country reducing the influx of hazardous and suboptimal products into the local market.

In an interview yesterday, Mr Malunga said the reduction in penalty charges on goods that arrive without certificates of conformity in the country follows an engagement between the Government and the business community.

“The rationale to review downwards the penalty is in response to stakeholder input particularly the business community who have lobbied the Ministry (Industry and Commerce) to reconsider the punitive sanction because sometimes it does happen that some suppliers ship without going through the process whether there are unaware of the requirements or a disregard of the regulation.

“But from the information that I have, this (review) is a consequence of a consultative engagement between the ministry and the business community,” he said.

At times, he said the goods under the regulated list are imported without undergoing pre-shipment inspection in the country of origin due to the urgent need for the imported products.

“It may occur from time to time that goods are dispatched or consigned to Zimbabwe without going through the process.

“The ministry then introduced destination inspection schemes where those goods could be inspected on arrival as an exception other than the norm. So, this is why inspection comes with a penalty in place because they want to discourage that,” said Mr Malunga.

“There is no interest in importing products only for them to be condemned or deemed non-compliant on arrival after paying and incurring all those freight charges, duty charges and so on.

“It’s better that the process is done outside so it’s an exceptional mechanism put in place to accommodate and to facilitate business because it does happen that some of the consignments are super urgent.”

Speaking during a question and answer session at the event, director for quality assurance and trade measures in the Ministry of Industry and Commerce Engineer Muchumairi Macheka said: “We have taken note of the business concerns hence with effect from the 1st of March, we are reducing the penalty fees charged on goods that arrive at the country’s ports of entry without conformity certificates before shipment from the country of origin.”

Before the CBCA programme was launched, the suitability of imported products that entered Zimbabwe was not verified, but this initiative is seen as a giant move towards substantially reducing hazardous and substandard imported goods as well as improving customs duty collection.

It is hoped that the initiative seeks to protect Zimbabwean consumers against dangerous or suboptimal products as well as improve the quality of products through applicable standards and regulations. This is critical, particularly at a time when the continent has embraced the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) agreement. The AfCFTA to which Zimbabwe is a signatory, aims to eliminate tariffs on 90 percent of goods traded between member States over 10 years. This means that industries across Africa need to brace for stiff competition and the strengthening of value chains is essential to ensure Zimbabwean businesses can compete.

The AfCFTA is also expected to boost intra-African trade by 53 percent by 2025 with the potential to create up to 30 million jobs and lift 30 million people out of extreme poverty.

In a separate interview yesterday, Shipping Forwarding Agents’ Association of Zimbabwe (SFAAZ) chief executive officer Mr Washington Dube welcomed the downward review of penalty charges on goods imported into the country without pre-shipment inspections.

“We welcome the development by the Government together with Bureau Veritas to reduce the fine from 15 percent to 12 percent. When we are importing goods, the ultimate cost will be passed to the consumer and even the fines are part of the costs that are passed by businesses to the final consumer. So the reduction of penalty charges in cases of non-compliance will be a burden to the buying public.

“We always encourage our members to be compliant as much as possible . . . and as SFAAZ we are advocating to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce to reduce the fine and we are happy that the Government has listened to our plea to reduce the fine,” he said.

“However, we feel that there is more room as we are moving forward to actually further reduce the fine. In any case, those goods will be inspected in Zimbabwe, it’s not like when you pay a fine those goods will not be inspected.”

Mr Dube said there were a host of issues causing importers not to have their goods inspected prior to shipment.

“At times when buying the goods, they will be urgently needed in Zimbabwe for use so at times to book the inspection it can take a bit of time.

“So, the importer will actually weigh that it’s actually better to pay the fine and have the goods inspected while in Zimbabwe just to cut on the time frames to deliver the goods in Zimbabwe,” he said.

 

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