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Agencies miss Uhuru deadline for release of cargo

President Uhuru Kenyatta
President Uhuru Kenyatta. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

State agencies at the Embakasi inland depot have missed a three-week deadline imposed by President Uhuru Kenyatta to release goods imported by small traders.

Over a month ago, the President ordered the immediate clearance of hundreds of cargo containers being held at the Inland Container Depot (ICD) in Nairobi. However, just about ten percent of the cargo had been cleared as at Wednesday.

Trade and Industrialisation Secretary Peter Munya said 89 out of 514 containers had been released since the May 27 directive.

“About 300 have already been cleared by the agencies but are yet to be released and we had a meeting today (yesterday) where we have directed them to release the containers in the next two days. We have some 125 containers whose owners are yet to show up,” Mr Munya said.

Traders have blamed the delayed cargo clearance for the collapse or slowing down of their businesses and default of bank loans.

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A joint press briefing that was meant to be addressed by Mr Munya, acting Kebs Managing Director Bernard Njiraini, Kenya Revenue Authority Commissioner- General James Mburu and representatives from the Kenya Ports Authority was cancelled on Tuesday without any explanation as it emerged that the three weeks deadline was not going to be achieved.

The clearance is said to have been complicated by the lack of approval needed to inspect the consolidated cargo locally since they had not undergone the pre-export verification in their source countries.

The Kenya Bureau of Standards requires an exemption from the Trade Secretary to inspect goods at Kenyan ports before they are cleared, a letter that has not been forthcoming according to sources involved in the cargo clearance.

A senior source from one of the agencies tasked with clearing the cargo told Business Daily that the delay was occasioned by the delayed greenlight from the Trade Ministry to have the goods exempted from the requirement that they should be inspected from their ports of origin before being shipped to Kenya.

Mr Munya, who in January announced that all importers would be required to subject their cargo to an inspection from the country of origin without which they would be required to return them to their ports of origin for inspection, dismissed the claims as “propaganda and the usual misinformation” when reached for comment on Tuesday.

In his January directive to Kebs, the standards agency was prohibited from inspecting goods entering the Kenyan market without a Pre-Export Verification of Conformity to Standards (PVOC).

“All importers are notified that with effect from January 23, 2019, no requests for destination inspection will be received by the minister,” Mr Munya said at the time.

The conformity assessment, started in September 2005, applies to products in the respective exporting countries to ensure their compliance with the applicable Kenyan standards.

Kenya appointed five inspection agencies; Bureau Veritas S.A, Intertek International Limited, China Certification and Inspection Company Limited (CCIC), SGS and Cotecna Inspection S.A, stationed in various parts of the world to carry out inspection on behalf of Kebs.

Some of the agencies have been blamed for allowing in substandard goods into the country, sometimes leading to their suspension. In October 2018, Kebs suspended the services of Swiss-based SGS from inspecting goods being imported to Kenya from Japan, Korea (South and North), Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and Cambodia. The Chinese CCIC, on the other hand, was barred from inspecting goods destined to Kenya from mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Mongolia.

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