Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Independent Consumers Associations are Required to Supplement Government Efforts on Consumerism.

From TCAS Annual Review Discussions;

M/s; Lucy Ludovick Tarimo and other members in TCAS’s board of directors tried to define Independent Consumer Association as an organization not committed to a political party or relying on government, affiliated with small, medium or large producers, manufactures, distributors, service providers and is standing as an independent consumers association with the deliberate intention of not allowing that particular organization to be controlled by other powerful interests hence cause biasness on organization’s future decisions.

A shared commitment and efforts to fulfil the right of consumers should be the responsibility of the government with other members of the society like individual consumers, producers, distributors, service providers, professionals, civil societies, NGOs, consumers’ associations and others. All should work together to supplement government efforts on protection and promotion of consumers rights. Mr Adam Karia contributed in the discussion.

This is not a new phenomenon; there are a lot of government programs on child and maternal healthy, HIV/AIDs of which government is doing through its’ ministries, hospitals, commissions, agencies like;- TACAIDS but yet still there are NGOs such as AMREF, UMATI, Marie Stopes, SHIDEPHA, Pathfinder, Engender-Healthy, Family Healthy International (FHI) just to mention some few whom are working day and night to supplement government efforts on reducing the effect of HIV/AIDs, and unsafe motherhood that affect majority of Tanzanians. Mr Adam Karia emphasized.

Mr Bernard Kihiyo said; the government is having the Minister for Community Development, Gender and Children; Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs-courts of law, Minister of State in the President's Office - Good Governance and Commission for Good Governance and Human Rights yet still there are organisations and NGOs which are working to supplemented government efforts on the same; NGOs such as; - Tanzania Media-Women Association (TAMWA), Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), National Organisation for Legal Assistance (NOLA), Tanzania Gender Network Program (TGNP), TUWAJALI Women Rights Legal Assistance (WRLA), Kuleana and many others.

There is Ministry of Water which is there to coordinate the supply of clean water to all Tanzanians; however government effort is supplemented by independent organization such as Oxfam, Care International, Action-Aid, Water-Aid, Plan International, etc by establishing or financing various water projects in different parts of Tanzania.

Moreover the government is having Minister for Planning, Economy and Empowerment; Minister for Industry, Trade and Marketing; Minister for Energy and Minerals; Minister for Health and Social Welfare; Minister for Agriculture, Food Security and Co-operatives; Minister for Infrastructure Development; Minister for Information, Culture, and Sports; - all of these ministries are dealing with Tanzania consumers in one way or the other but there is no independent non governmental consumers’ associations to do the same.

For instance through Ministry of Industry, Trade and Marketing this coordinates manufacturing, trade and marketing of goods and services in and outside the country; in helping the ministry to perform its duties there are several agencies established such as ‘’Tanzania Bureau of Standards’’ (TBS) for controlling goods standards; ‘’Tanzania Weight and Measurement Agency’’; and ‘’Fair Competition Commission’’; Energy and Water Utility Regulatory Authority (EWURA) which on its peculiar case it is under two different ministries (Ministry of Water; Ministry of Energy and Minerals).

Under the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare there is ‘’Tanzania Food and Drugs Regulatory Authority’’ (TFDA); Ministry of Infrastructure Development there are; - ‘’Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority’’ (SUMATRA) and ‘’Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority’’ (TCAA); Minister for Information, Culture, and Sports there is ‘’Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority’’ (TCRA). Kihiyo elaborated.

Under each of the Sectoral Regulatory Authority (SRAs) there is Consumer Consultative Council whereas under Fair Competition Commission there is ‘’National Consumer Advocacy Council’’. Each of these SRAs - council consists of not less than five members and not more than ten members appointed by responsible minister. The council in consultation with the minister makes its own rules for regulating its procedures and other matters relating to its functions on promoting and protecting consumers’ rights. Mr Proches M. Latonga explained.

All councils under Sectoral Regulatory Authorities (SRAs) are governed by Director-Generals, non-executive members who are appointed by the responsible Minister or president in case of chairperson after consultation with relevant Ministers. These SRAs are required to submit their reports to the relevant Ministers within specified time and the responsible minister; who will share council’s budget and annual report with National Assembly for funds and approval.

In each council there must be a copy of the Public Register of activities done by the council that has to be accessible for inspection by the general public (consumers). But the responsible minister has the powers from time to time to advice, authorize and determine the categories of decisions and information which would be placed on the Public Register. Mr Latonga cemented.

In some instances we have experienced a negative side of what it sometimes means to be independent council, commission or agency under the parasol of the government. These councils in one way or the other are influenced by the political wind of ministers and government in powers. All TCAS’s attended board members agreed on this.

In view of the situation above; we need independent; non governmental consumers associations which can supplement the works of government ministries, commission and agencies mentioned above. Independent consumers’ associations are required to supplement government efforts on promoting and protection of consumers’ rights as it is to other marginalized groups like children and women rights on reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, general human rights and good governance and the like. Mr Latonga insisted.

The government of Tanzania with the support of various donors World Bank’s, DFID, SIDA, DANIDA, GTZ, CIDA, the Netherlands;- are carrying out various programs such as Business Environment Strengthening for Tanzania (BEST) programme; Private Sector Competitiveness Project; the Private Sector MSME Competitiveness Project; The Financial Sector Deepening Trust (FSDT); Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF) etc with the aim of improving the business environment; investment climate in Tanzania and strengthening private sector as an engine of country’s economic growth. Mr Hodrum B. Suleiman said.

He went further to say; I do recognize that private sector is an engine of Tanzania’s economic growth and that if poverty reduction goals are to be achieved significant strides must be made in the development of the sector. However, by focusing strictly on measures to overcome supply-side constraints that inhibit growth and competitiveness of the private sector, without supporting the efforts of government sectoral regulatory authorise, consumers' councils and other independent non governmental association these efforts are going to lack sight. Mr Hodrum B. Suleiman lamented.

According to Ellerman (Britton Woods Update, Jan/Feb 2002) argues that, improving the investment climate for one group may make it worse for some other groups. It has been revealed in April.2007 TCAS’s consumers Survey that more than 80% of consumers in Tanzania are suffering from lack of understanding of consumer rights. They remain vulnerable; they have no ability to claim their rights and don’t have a formidable platform that could make their voices’ heard. http://www.tcas.or.tz

Poor people economic empowerment under the Ministry of Planning, Economy and Empowerment through MKUKUTA - NSGRP is going to be unachievable dream, if consumers’ voices are not heard and consumers are not empowered to get the actual value for money they spend on the goods and services. M/s; Happy Steven Mhina-TCAS’s member of the board of directors said.

If not for Non governmental, independent consumers associations to supplement government efforts on protecting and promotion of consumers’ rights (consumerism), the most difficulty questions to ask our selves are
-How abusive business practices by enterprises at the national and international levels which adversely affect consumers will be curbed
-How private sector institutions will be made accountable and more responsive to consumer’s needs and interests
-How the private sector will emerge, grow and remain competitive in the absence of an informed and healthy consumers
-And, strengthening private sector, reforming business environment and investment climate for whom? If not for the betterment of all forty million Tanzania consumers. She insisted.

The presence on high increase on violation of consumers’ rights is a new challenge to Tanzania government, with its social-economic, political and judicial system. If the situation is not well taken care it is going to jeopardise the essence of citizen economic rights and empowerment in our country…It is now or never let us work together for the common good of Tanzania consumers, M/S Lucy Ludovick Tarimo said.

Tanzania Consumer Advocacy Society (TCAS) with partnership with Consumers International (CI) is vocal, independent non governmental campaigning voice for consumers in Tanzania. We would like to build a powerful national consumers movement to supplement government efforts on protection and empowerment of consumers everywhere in Tanzania. Jackyz Meena explained.

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