I will like to start by giving you a brief history about the Guyana National Bureau of Standards (GNBS) to let you know I am fully aware of the function and purpose of the organisation of which I am about to speak about.
The GNBS was established in March of the year 1984 under Act No. 11 of Parliament in the same year.
At the time the GNBS was located in the Ministry of Works compound, Fort Street, Kingston, until April, 1987, when the operations were moved to 77 West 1/2 Hadfield Street, Werk-en-Rust. The Bureau remained until the month of June in 1996 when the GNBS Office was located to Flat 15, National Exhibition Complex, Sophia, Greater Georgetown, where it is still located today.
The Bureau has the legal status of a statutory corporation or a semi autonomous agency. It is governed by a National Standards Council, whose members are appointed by the subject Minister. (The Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Commerce)
The GNBS Vision Statement is, “To improve the quality of goods and services in Guyana through the process of standardisation,” And its Mission statement is “To promote standardisation for economic development and consumer protection through standards development, promotion and implementation, metrology services and Conformity Assessment.”
One of the objectives of the Bureau is to provide for the testing for locally manufactured and imported commodities with the view of determining whether such commodities comply with the provision of the Standards Act or any other law dealing with standards and quality. Now this I can assure you that is not happening, instead the GNBS inspection arm, which is referred to as Standards Compliance Department has been taking the importers of this beautiful country by the horn, so to put it.
Over the last two years, there have been demands for large sums of money from importers which is increasing rapidly to release consignments of goods without inspection or goods of a substandard quality. At present, the bribes range from $40,000 to release a container of garments or footwear, $50,000 and $60,000 for electrical appliances depending on who is the consignee and for used tyres it ranges from $70,000-$100,000 to have them released without inspection.
This information might seem funny, and you may want to dispute my statement but before you do so take some time to investigate, do like I did. For instance, do you know that the GNBS is divided into five main departments and the inspectors are the lowest paid and have more than 75% of privately owned vehicles in the organisation?
There are over 100,000 used tyres that are imported into the country yearly and not one piece is physically rejected by the Bureau of standards, even the storage for the used tyres are compromised and if you dispute this take a walk to the tyre outlet in Diamond on the EBD, or at Better Hope on the ECD and you will see what I am talking about. According to the National Standard GCP 4: 1997 (code of practice for the storage of tyres inner tubes and flaps), states that tyres shall be stored not more than six in height when stored horizontally and should be stored away from direct sunlight and on pallets; is this happening at any of these tyre outlets that I highlighted, and if not, why isn’t the GNBS doing anything about it, after all these outlets has been in operation in excess of two years. Tyres imported should also have minimum 4mm thread, can you find any tyre in Guyana with that amount of tread depth?
Under the public service act, it prohibits officers of the law to have any business of any nature since it can serve as a conflict of interest, but in the GNBS this is not so. This clause is to ensure consumer protection by policing or monitoring some 22 categories of items which include garments, footwear, electrical appliances, cell phones etc.
The truth of the matter is we the importers are held hostage by some in the GNBS and are truly sick of the behaviour of these inspectors, but are afraid of victimization so instead of putting up a resistance we are forced to comply. It doesn’t matter if our goods are of the highest or lowest of quality, we have to pay or (bribe) as we know it. I have spoken to other importers, who express the same dissatisfaction and frustration dealing with GNBS and have made, and are willing to make complaints to persons in authority on the matter, like the Minister of Tourism Industry and Commerce and a few others, but the rescue is taking forever to come.
I would sincerely hope for the relevant authority to look into this matter, maybe Minister, Mr. Prashad can assist so that the importers of this country can be released from the dangerous hands of these guys, and regain the pride of the organisation. Guyana is in desperate need of higher standards and when the enforcers of the standards are allowing their friends to flood the market with substandard goods just for a few bucks, it is not acceptable. I hope the vision of the organisation can be realised.
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