Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Namibia continues to treat the Namibian Standards Institution (NSI) like a social leper Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Riundja Ali Kaakunga has said.
Kaakunga said currently many SMEs – particularly those operating Katutura are violating the set standards with impunity.
“But a time will come when facilities of SMEs will be subjected to inspection to determine their compliance to the standards,” he said.
He did not mince his words when he added that at the present moment “There is nothing happening and everybody is doing as they please.”
The status quo, he said is worsened by the fact that compliance to standards ‘is not mandatory,’ adding that what his institution advocates for businesses to comply rather than impose the standards on businesses.
The compliance with any standard of any country according to the NSI CEO is the prerogative of the business owner and the business owner who complies with certain set standards normally enjoys the competitive edge over his business rivals. “However compliance with the rules and regulations remain mandatory” Kaakunga said.
He added that “We are not a watchdog. We can only play the watchdog role on any particular task as assigned to the NSI by virtue of a regulation or law or even a cabinet directive. Otherwise we simply remain as facilitative agents.”
The institution plays the watchdog role in the fisheries sector because there is a regulation that effect. As a result all marine products that gets out of Namibia carries the NSI mark of conformity.
The NSI was established by the Standards Act of 2005 and tasked with the promotion of standardisation and the development of standards and their applications.
The formation of the NSI was also expedited by the fact that in October 2006, the SABS (South African Bureau of Standards) which had been the technical inspection body in Namibia notified the Namibian government that a law was being passed in South Africa taking away regulatory functions from the SABS to another body to be established - The National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS).
It emerged then that the NRCS would have no jurisdiction beyond the borders of South Africa. The absence of the SABS in Namibia would mean that there would be no regulator in Namibia hence NSI was established via a Cabinet directive.
Currently the NSI is operating as both a Section 21 company under the Companies Act and a statutory body established in terms of the Standards Act.
It is therefore one of the key performance indicators (KPI) of the country’s national quality infrastructure, the first being the National Quality Policy (NQP) as was adopted by Cabinet. The other KPI, Indi Post has learnt, is the Legal Infrastructure consisting of the Standards Act No 18 of 2005, the Metrology Amendment Act No 17 of 2005 and the Accreditation Board of Namibia Act No 8 of 2005.
The institution’s operations are hampered by the lack of knowledge pertaining to standards among the populace or the ignorance thereof. “Standards and all other elements of the NQI are not taught anywhere in the country hence getting qualified staff is a hustle,” Kaakunga said.
The operations of the NSI are further hampered by financial pressures. “We do not have sufficient funds since we are a non-profit making entity and the equipment we use in our trade are extremely expensive,” Kaakunga added.
“Five years ago we were told we should take over from the SABS – a company that has been in operation for more the 70 years. Meaning we had to move the NSI from zero to a 100% competency level and we have successfully managed,” Kaakunga said.
‘We also developed a strategic plan from 2008 to 2012 and through this plan we were able to get our laboratories accredited,” he added.
He called upon the SMEs sector to utilise its services if they are to penetrate the SADC regional market.
Said Kaakunga; “SMEs are the backbone of any country’s economy. Rich countries are rich because of the contribution of SMEs in those countries.