This comes after years of businesses complaining about a lack of testing by the SABS, resulting in manufacturers losing contracts because they are unable to obtain the SABS mark timeously, or they have been unable to renew 2 600 permits to use the mark.
Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies is assessing representations from the SABS board on why he should not go ahead with his intention to put the entity under administration for not performing to its mandate. The SABS falls under Davies’ department.
Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa economist Marique Kruger said the lack of testing and certification by the SABS within the required time frames was a concern, as certification was often needed for products to be sold locally and internationally.
Kruger said trade deals being delayed or cancelled due to a lack of testing hit smaller businesses the hardest and caused a loss of billions in exports a year in the manufacturing and engineering sectors.
“The impact on the domestic production value chain is also huge,” she said.
Director at GAP Holdings, Theuns van Aardt, said manufacturers in the solar water heating industry were “tearing their hair out” because they “cannot get a system approved by the SABS”.
He said the piping, pump and valve industries were similarly affected, and were “being put at massive risk”.
Business development manager Carolien van der Horst of the SA Capital Equipment Export Council said the SABS was also failing to audit the local content of products supplied in government contracts as stipulated in government’s Industrial Policy Action Plan.
Van der Horst said this resulted in companies possibly supplying imported products when servicing tenders from state entities. However, she said it seemed that no one wanted to pay for the SABS to conduct these audits.
SABS CEO Boni Mehlomakulu hit back at industry and the department of trade and industry this week, saying she was fulfilling her mandate according to policy that was implemented in 2005.
She said the issues affecting industry were inherent in the policy, which emerged from the 2004 National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) report, titled Modernising the South African Technical Infrastructure.
Informed by a department of trade and industry position paper in part authored by Lionel October, who was then the department’s deputy director-general, Nedlac agreed that the SABS should split into a commercial testing and certification entity, and its statutory standards setting body should be funded by government.