In view of much talk about the Sudanese markets being glutted with commodities and products considered as incongruent with the standards and about SSMO role in checking this phenomenon, sudanow.info.sd conducted an interview with Dr. Awad Mohamed Ahmed Sakarab, the Director of the Standards Section of SSMO on the powers the Specifications Act of 2008 granted to the Organization, on its physical and human resources and the efforts it exerts for supervision and control of the imports and exports.
The interview follows hereunder:
sudanow.info.sd: When was SSMO established, what is the objective of its establishment and what are its jurisdictions?
Sakarab: The Organization was formed under the following constitutional provisions:
-The Council of Ministers Resolution No. 287, 1992
-The Republican Decree,September 10, 1992
-The National Assembly Resolution No. 68, 1992
Those provisions stipulated that the purpose of establishing SSMO is to protect the national economy and the Sudanese consumer and his/her health against deceit and fraudulence in addition to promoting the production and services quality and laying down scientific standards and controls for organizing the traffic of the commodities and different food supplies.
The SSMO also prevents inundating the markets with imported goods and commodities of poor quality and works for upgrading the exports by introducing the standard specifications of the international and regional markets.
sudanow.info.sd: What are the powers bestowed upon the SSMO by the new Act of 2008?
Sakarab: Act 2008 granted the SSMO the right to issue standards for the commodities and services by technical committees to be formed by the Organization in which the concerned scientific and technical bodies of the public and private sectors are represented besides representatives of the Consumer Protection Association and the Consumer Prosecution. Those committees prepare the standards and technical rules and give tehnical opinion on the standards of the imported commodities and help resolve problems that face the exports. The SSMO also prepares a quality guide-book on the commodities and services.
The Act granted the Organization the right to evaluating the conformity of the commodities and services with the set standards by conducting processes of standardization, examination and analysis in the SSMO test units and laboratories which are spread all over the states. It also granted the SSMO the right to establishing fulcrums for implementation of health agreements and removing technical obstacles facing trade through implementation of the international trade agreement in coordination with the food constitutional commission and the regional and international bodies. The Act also gave the Organization the right to issuing the Sudanese quality mark for the commodities and services.
sudanow.info.sd : Has the SSMO confronted any challenges in implementing the provisions of the Act?
Sakarab: Yes. The challenges were due to lack of financial resources of the Organization. The SSMO therefore applies a strategy for listing all the required standards and formation of committees for those standards due to lack of the financial resources. It also borrows assistance from a number of university laboratories for examination of some products, although the results of those laboratories are not accredited internationally. For this reason, the SSMO also seeks assistance by the international surveyor and, this is why it recruited about six international surveyor companies for conducting advance examination of the imported commodities. The SSMO, moreover, coordinates closely with the concerned bodies, particularly as there is a contradiction in operations of the supervisory institutions that need further legislations.
sudanow.info.sd : How does the SSMO deal with the chambers of the importers and exporters and the extent of their commitment to the national standards and how are they called to account in cases of violation?
Sakarab: The SSMO has established a compatibility section which is tasked with showing any merchant or importer the national standard for abidance in advance before obtaining a letter of credit for importing a specific commodity. Generally, the key importers do not make violations, but most of the violations are made by the so-called ‘bag traders’ and for this reason, the Organization turns back all consignments which are incompatible with the standards or destroy them. The SSMO makes contacts, in collaboration with the Bank of Sudan, for issuing a law that provides for including the specific standard in the letter of credit by the importer.
The SSMO has set up a joint body under the name of the Consumer Affairs Committee comprising such relevant bodies as Health, Industry, Agriculture, the Consumer Protection Association and the Consumer Prosecution to conduct occasional raids of inspection on the markets, confiscate the commodities which are incompatible with the standards and take the violators to courts of law under Article 31 of the Standards Act.
sudanow.info.sd: SSMO has recently celebrated obtaining the international ISO quality certificate. What has this certificate added to the Organization?
Sakarab: It is a certificate that is based on the services the institution offers the customers in an effective way which fulfils the needs of the customer. The awarded certificate was the quality management certificate which is the starting point on the road for the Organization towards excellence. It was awarded by the British Standards Institute which operates under the gauges of European distinction which the SSMO plans to reach in the coming period by achieving the required standards of management leadership, strategy, operations and social responsibility.
As regards the technical aspect, the Organization seeks to obtain the accreditation certificate in the field of laboratories as it has now 11 laboratories divided between Khartoum and Port Sudan. This accreditation certificate confirms the credibility of the technical results issued by the SSMO which are acceptable all over the world.
sudanow.info.sd : The SSMO has recently signed an agreement with China. What are the aims of that agreement?
Sakarab: It was an important agreement to be concluded by the SSMO as China has now become the biggest exporter to the Sudan. It is aimed at improving the quality of the industrial products exchanged between the two countries in addition to facilitating trade between them for their mutual interests.
The agreement also provides for exchanging laws, rules and standards for examination and control of products of the two countries in addition to cooperation in the field of training of the personnel in technology and examination of products.
The agreement, moreover, granted the Sudanese authorities the right to reject the consignments coming from China in case they are incompatible with the set standards. The examination covers the quality, quantity, safety, environment protection and loading supervision.
In case of unavailability of a national Sudanese or Chinese standard for the product, the international standard applies. China will benefit from the fees of examination of the Sudanese imports and issuing certificates thereof. Work is underway by the SSMO for establishing electronic liaison with the Chinese standards Organization to facilitate the exchange of documents.