Faster imports clearance as State expands pre-shipment scrutiny list

The pace and efficiency of import cargo clearance at the various ports of entry is expected to improve following a move by the government to expand the list of goods inspected at the point of origin before shipment into the country.

“Having more goods in the pre-shipment inspection arrangement is good for us because we will have lesser work here in terms of inspection. Goods shall be certified at the point of origin and shall only make confirmations when they arriv,” Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) managing director Charles Ongwae said.

Kebs and the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) on Sunday said all goods shipped into Kenya will now be inspected at the country of origin under pre-export verification of conformity (PVoC) scheme as the government moves to eliminate tax losses at Kenya’s entry points and the flow of substandard goods.

“The whole issue is not new, we have only expanded the list of items and products covered. Previously our focus was pre-shipment inspection of goods and products that have a direct impact on the health and safety of our people but with time everything we import has come to have an impact on health and safety in one way or another,” Mr Ongwae said.

Only a handful of goods will be exempt from this requirement. These are raw materials for processing into finished products, spare parts for own use by manufacturers and customised machinery not meant for sale.

“The pre-shipment inspection also has influence on the revenue side because once a good is declared at the point of origin, there will be no room for falsification once it gets here,” Mr Ongwae added.

Kenya has Ms Soci´vévt´é Générale De Surveillance SA (SGS), Ms Intertek International, Bureau Veritas and Ms China Certification and Inspection (Group)o—as pre-shipment inspection service providers.

The PVoC is a conformity assessment programme that is administered by Kebs on behalf of the government and carried out by the appointed verification partners on regulated goods in the country of supply.

The objective is to minimise the risk of unsafe and substandard goods entering Kenyan market.Upon the completion of verification procedures, successful importers and exporters are usually handed a certificate of compliance (CoC).

Any regulated goods arriving at the port of entry without a CoC will be subjected to a destination inspection process at a fee equivalent to 15 per cent of the cost of insurance and freight value of the same.

Mr Ongwae said the expanded PVoC scheme will also help boost compliance with the mandatory acquisition of new fool-proof quality stamps for imported products.

“You notice that one of the conditions of issuance of the quality stamps is that one must present a CoC which is provided for all goods that are pre-inspected before shipment,” Mr Ongwae said.

Kebs in August exempted traders already holding stocks of imported products from for one year, giving a reprieve to retail outlets.

The standards regulator said imported products already in the market can be sold without the new import standardisation mark (ISM) stickers up to June 30, 2016.

The acquisition of tamper-proof stamps, which kick off in September is aimed at curbing fake Kebs quality marks and provides a platform through which Kebs will carry out real-time validation and verification of goods bearing its quality marks.

The system will also provide an online platform for consumers to authenticate the validity of certification of goods before purchase. The stamps will have highly secured features such as those used in excise stamps or visa stickers. Each sticker will cost 49 cents, payable directly to Kebs.

The country is currently battling to contain an inflow of counterfeits, especially from Asia, that have rendered locally manufactured goods uncompetitive. The country is also fighting illicit alcohol.

Kebs said the issuance of the new stickers would be controlled tightly to avoid abuse by cartels and phony traders. The mark of quality has in the past been issued to importers in soft copies for printing in the form of stickers to be applied on Kebs certified products or incorporation on the packages of Kebs certified products.

Products already certified by Kebs under the Diamond Mark of Quality Scheme are exempted from mandatory application of ISM, the agency said.

“The Diamond Mark of Quality will be re-designed and certification fees aligned to prevailing ISM costs. Products subject to PVoC must be accompanied with a certificate to show conformity, the above list notwithstanding,” the regulator said.

Kebs said the new guidelines on imported goods would exempt some items including medicines and medical devices that will be under the full control of the Pharmacy and Poisons Board from July 1, 2016.