Rethink idea of single standards mark – Business Daily
This idea of creating a single Government of Kenya Mark to replace all product authentication marks issued by all State agencies, including Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs), Anti-Counterfeit Authority (ACA), Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) does not make sense.
If you didn’t know, a multi-agency group co-ordinated from the Office of the President has been working on a plan to introduce what is dabbed as ‘the integrated product marking and authentication system’.
The committee has completed the drafting of the Government Kenya Mark Bill 2022. According to available correspondence, the committee has recommended that issuance of all product authorisation stamps be centralised and done by the Kenya Revenue Authority.
If the new system is implemented, the Commissioner General of KRA will become the issuing authority of the new stamp.
The questions which we must ask are the following: Why are we introducing such major and fundamental changes before subjecting the process to debate and public participation? Where is the concept note with persuasive and factual evidence showing that this new offering is a superior arrangement to the existing one?
Even more pertinent, have we looked at international best practice? The world over, the best practice and standard is that every country establishes a national standards body issuing certification and conformity marks for goods that are either locally manufactured or imported.
Our own Kebs was established with the mandate of ensuring that all manufactured and imported goods comply with health, safety, and environment protection requirements in line with relevant standards or other approved specifications.
We are also obligated to obey the East Africa Community Standardisation Quality Assurance Metrology and Testing Act for member countries of the community.
How is this new animal called ‘Government of Kenya Mark’ in a context of the trade treaties and laws we have signed at the East Africa Community level? The truth of the matter is that the Kenya Government Mark is unlikely to be recognised as an equal certification within the EAC if it is not issued by our national standards body.
The practice and tradition in this country is that policy precedes legislation. Yet the Government of Kenya Mark is not a product of well-thought policy. It originated as a mere side issue in recommendations of the Public Investment Committee (PIC) of Parliament as the committee was probing a procurement contract of printing, supply and security revenue stamps by KRA.
As we all know, parliamentary committees in this country are not famous for producing well-thought-out policies. Instead, this committee only becomes famous when we are discussing subjects such as cash-for-questions scandals, or when we are whining about a rise in the incidence of purchase of parliamentary influence by lobbyists working behind the scenes to direct and introduce legislation and amendments.
I smell machinations by lobbyists scheming to consolidate multi-billion shilling contracts for printing and supplying product authentication and tax stamps into one big deal.
Currently, Kebs alone issues multiple stamps and marks, namely, standardisation mark, diamond mark, food fortification logo, and important standardisation mark scheme.
Although the law allows the Anti-Counterfeit Agency to issue a ‘mark of genuine stamp’, it is yet to implement it. Kephis issues stamps on seeds, seed stickers and seed labels. The Pharmacy and Poisons Board issues a certificate of analysis, a production retention certificate and products imports and exports permits. The KRA issues excise stamps that are recorded and validated in an Excise Goods Management System.
Are these stamps and certificates too many? Maybe. Experience shows that where bribes are paid for benefits that are not restrained by budgetary limits such as licences, permits and certificates, overlapping and bureaucratic jurisdictions will help in reducing corruption because the briber has to deal with multiple agencies. A great architecture of such institutions.
This Government of Kenya Mark thing is a madcap idea.