Wednesday November 3 2010

Government suspends pre-inspection of general goods

By Justus Lyatuu


The ministry of Trade has finally suspended the pre-inspection of goods and used motor vehicle schemes that were instituted earlier this year. The move follows a protracted struggle between Uganda Revenue Authority, ministry of Finance, Uganda National Bureau of Standards and the Ministry of Trade.

In a September letter addressed to Uganda Revenue Authority, the ministry of Finance directed the tax body to suspend the two schemes indefinitely.
Earlier last year, the ministry of Trade working in partnership with the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) introduced the pre-shipment inspection schemes, which as it argued was aimed at preventing the entry of substandard goods onto Uganda’s market.

Contracted firms
Whereas Japan Export Vehicle Inspection Centre and Jabali Kilimanjaro Automobiles, where contracted to carry out the pre-inspection of used vehicles entering the country, Intertek international, Bureau VERITAS and Societe Generale de Surveillance (SGS) were contracted to pre-inspect general goods entering the country on behalf of UNBS.

However, car importers rejected the move citing delays, increased cost of doing business and suspected corruption in the conduct of the process.
Addressing the press in Kampala on Monday Mr Kahinda Otafiire the Trade minister who announced the suspension said the business community had complained of numerous challenges involved in adjusting to the scheme mainly resulting from the bureaucracy involved. He said: “Traders also claim high costs of doing business, unauthorised charges, unclear procedures plus incompetent inspectors and personnel.”
According to Mr Otafiire the scheme was suspended because the conductors failed to sensitise importers on how to contact the providers in various countries.

Importers have also complained about the rise in the cost of shipment of the vehicles due to the charges beyond the agreed contract fees and also inadequate technical inputs in the inspection work itself.

Responding to concern
On the suspension he said: “Consequently, the government has responded to the concerns of the business community by halting both schemes (vehicle and general goods) to allow for review and analysis. However, Mr Otafiire asked UNBS to increase its inspection capacity, to prevent the entry of undesirable goods. He said: “I have tasked UNBS to increase their vigilance to ensure that the undesirable goods do not enter the country.”

The inspection firms were contracted on a two- year deal, however when asked about the breach of contract, the minister said: “Before we cancelled the deal we had that in mind. Also the ministry employs legal minds and so you should not worry.”