The Vanuatu DPM and Minister for Trade Joe Natuman launched on the 16th of August 2017, the first ever ‘Vanuatu Bureau of Standards’ Office since Vanuatu gained its Independence in 1980.
After attending the launching we took time out with Joe Natuman’s Director General, Mr. George Borugu, and asked a few questions about the all new ‘Vanuatu Bureau of Standards’ and what the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade expects out of this new initiative.
YTSNews: Mr Borugu, Welcome to KANDA, we understand the DPM has high expectations for this new office, can you tell us about it?
Borugu: Thanks for having me on KANDA, the DPM has always talked about setting up the Vanuatu Bureau of Standards office. I remember him saying he wanted this to happen for various reasons. He wanted an office to be responsible for facilitating timely developments, promulgation, promotion and implementation of national and regional standards (and technical regulations) for goods, services, processes and practices.
DPM Natuman wanted this office set up to facilitate standards development through the formation of technical committees comprising stakeholders such as manufacturers, consumers, regulators, and professionals to set standards for safety and health, quality and performance. National standards are developed to improve the quality of local products to satisfy the requirements of international markets and that is one area Natuman wants us to focus on improving as it will greatly diversify and improve value on all local products.
Where feasible, the Vanuatu Bureau of Standards are aligned with regional and international standards to facilitate greater market access for Vanuatu manufactured goods and exports. Simply put, the Bureau manages Vanuatu’s participation in this process.
YTSNews: How can we tell that a product a company is producing in Vanuatu meets the standard to export?
Borugu: There are certain ways to do this but the final part that will clearly say a product has met certain standards is by “Certification”. The DPM has asked that we introduce two things once the Standards Bureau is opened and one (1) is the standards facility and the second (2) is the laboratory to do all the testing.
The Vanuatu Bureau of Standards offers product certification and is developing the capabilities to provide management systems certification. Product certification is through testing and that is the secondary phase which we need to introduce soon just to ensure that a certain product has passed performance and quality assurance tests or conforms to requirements stipulated in the relevant standards.
Of course the Vanuatu Bureau of standards has a long road and we have a mountain to climb but we need to be keen to introduce a management systems certification that refers to the issuing of written assurance (the certificate) and verified that it conforms to the requirements specified in the standard. Of course this will come at a later stage.
YTSNews: Tell us a little about the testing and of course you will have to do inspections right?
Borugu: Yes inspections is a role for the Vanuatu Bureau of Standards. The office conducts inspections and investigations at establishments in the marketplace and at the ports of entry; and conducts related regulatory laboratory testing under its Standards Compliance/Import Monitoring Programme.
Products found to be in breach of compulsory standards/technical regulations are subject to the following enforcement actions: i. Withdrawal of products from sale; ii. Rehabilitation of consignment or re-export or destruction of consignments.
The Bureau also inspects and tests measuring equipment (e.g. scales, storage tanks, dispensers at petrol stations, weigh bridges) for accuracy. Further, the Bureau offers commercial testing services to local industry, in areas such as engineering, textiles, paints, microbiology, chemicals, food, metallurgy, paper, and packaging.
We have introduced what is the biggest measure of control we can ever dream to have over products that we daily consume. In a way the Vanuatu Bureau of Standards is indeed a control measure to our life’s which is a good thing.
YTSNews: Tell us a little about the Calibration Service
Borugu: The Calibration Services will be a service provided by the Bureau. Its purpose is to help users of the measuring instruments and standards to obtain the highest possible levels of measurement quality and to conform to quality system requirements. For example the wights we use have to be calibrated to ensure 1 KG is 1 KG and not something else.
I was traveling with DPM Natuman and we had to get on a scale and the readings we had at the Airport scale in Vila were a bit different from the readings we had on the scales at the Airport in Luganville and this type of issues including kava scales and meat scales, even the electricity meter readings will be subject to Calibration test. Of course we need a state-of-the-art calibration equipment which we need to source.
Let me say a stable laboratory environment and well-trained staff, the metrology laboratories offer calibration services with international traceability and extremely high levels of accuracy will improve trading locally, regionally and internationally.
YTSNews: You mentioned Metrology, what is Metrology?
Borugu: Metrology, is the science of measurement, plays a key role in industry, international trade and in everyday life. Why we need Metrology is to ensure we provide accurate and reliable measurements which is very critical in assuring product quality, and in supporting environmental, health and safety issues.
The national measurement standards of Vanuatu which we have also introduced as laws provide the basis for its other conformity assessment activities like calibration services, trade metrology services, and conformance testing.
The laboratory setup should provide metrology services through to various sectors including health, telecommunications, security, construction, food and beverage, and mining. Again, the Vanuatu Bureau of Standards is a long term development and we will go step by step to ensure we do have all we have talked about in place. It does sound big because it is a big deal for Vanuatu.
YTSNews: All of this is really big and the big question is, have we prepared enough to go through all these given the skills required?
Borugu: We have staff’s here already who can do the job and have been trained. One requirement which we need to do is training courses, seminars and workshops that are offered by the Vanuatu Bureau of Standards and are designed around the common needs of various groups within the private and public sectors.
We will later on provide in-plant training packages that are structured to suit the specific needs of manufacturers and processors. Individual training attachment is facilitated on request for technicians, specialists and administrators. It is a long road but one which we have already taken the first step today when the DPM launched the Vanuatu Bureau of Standards Office.