Current Govt policy U-turns avoidable – BRRA

The Business Regulatory Review Agency (BRRA) Chief Executive Officer – CEO Sharon Sichilongo, whose agency has a statutory mandate to review and approve proposed regulatory frameworks has called for all policy or regulatory framework regulating business activity to only be submitted to cabinet for approval after her agency’s prior review and approval.

The Zambian government has been subjected to policy and regulatory humiliation after some key policies affecting businesses and the overall economy have been approved by cabinet but later struck down due to among other reasons economic compatibility, the general public outcry and at times for lack of synchronization with other existing laws.

Some of the more recent embarrassing policy and regulatory reversals include the reversal of the ban on importation of fresh fruit and vegetables, the u-turn in banning of medical personnel working simultaneously for both government and private hospitals, the reversal of the economically shocking higher higher mineral royalty tax rates from about 16% to current levels of about 6% and reversal of a statutory instrument requiring the repatriation of export cash proceeds back to the Zambia economy to mention a few.

Speaking to the Zambian Business Times – ZBT in an exclusive interview, Sichilongo stated that all public and private bodies proposing new or amendments of national or government policy or regulation frameworks must first undertake a Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) and submit a RIA Report to BRRA for Approval. This was in response to a question by ZBT on what her organization is doing on the current state were we have regulation and government policies that are being announced as approved and later struck down after public outrage.

Sichilongo stated that “a proposed policy or regulatory framework shall only be approved if it, has been subjected to a regulatory impact assessment in accordance with the regulations and guidelines issued under the Act; No. 3 of 2014,” She further said that, her agency has been requesting all public bodies to adhere to these provisions as mandated by the law. The Act also requires that all public bodies give notice in writing to BRRA at least two months before submitting to Cabinet any proposed law or policy that affects business. BRRA has been engaging regulators on the importance of undertaking regulatory impact assessments as well as consultations with all stakeholders.

When further asked to state what her role and her agency will be doing going forward about these policy u-turns, Sichilongo said BRRA will continue to implement sensitisation programmes on the importance of RIA as well as arrange for capacity building programmes in RIA for public bodies. She cited that the Act focuses on laws and policies that are aimed at regulating business activity, “BRRA is mandated to review all policies and laws that affect business with specific focus on licences, permits, certificates, levies, fees and authorisations. The Act however excludes professional bodies and any public body that generates revenue”. She said that the later provision implies that revenue intended for the national treasury may be excluded.

She also said that there is need for more sensitisation of regulatory agencies on the provisions of the Act. Regulatory Agencies intending to introduce or review regulatory frameworks must allow for conducting of an impact assessment as undertaking of RIA is a requirement by law and this law is complimentary to all other laws. Regulatory agencies need to understand that as they operate under their various respective pieces of legislation, they must also comply with the provisions of the Business Regulatory Act.

“Our mandate comes from the Business Regulatory Act, No. 3 of 2014. Therefore, the role of BRRA , focuses on regulatory frameworks such as licences, permits, certificates, levies, fees and authorisations ” she narrated to ZBT. She said BRRA intend to contribute to regulatory U-turns ending in Zambia, through promoting RIA. BRRA is contributing to better regulation of businesses as the RIA allows regulators the opportunity to assess the impact of proposed regulatory frameworks before they are implemented. RIA allows for consideration of various options to tackle various challenges as well as for consultations with stakeholders so that the best option, which delivers the maximum benefit at minimum cost to businesses, can be selected.

The Business Regulatory Review Agency (BRRA) was established under the Business Regulatory Act No. 3 of 2014 as an outcome of the Private Sector Development Reforms. The reforms were aimed at reducing the cost of doing business and creating a conducive business environment that promotes private sector growth. The Act introduces a set of principles, procedures and minimum requirements for the introduction of regulatory measures. The ultimate objective of the Act is to improve the quality of regulation and lessen the regulatory burden on businesses.

The mandate of the Agency is to review and approve proposed regulatory frameworks that have an impact on business activity and provide interventions aimed at promoting a conducive business regulatory environment. Some of the key functions of the agency include reviewing and approving proposed regulatory frameworks; managing the e-registry of policies and regulations; Developing and disseminating guidelines and standards for regulators to undertake RIAs and public consultations.

The other functions include monitoring and evaluating the business regulatory framework in the various sectors; building capacity and provision of technical support to regulatory agencies on the provision of regulatory services (terms and conditions of issuing licenses, certificates, permits or authorisation) in conformity to the Act; facilitating implementation of the action plans designed by the Committee on regulatory service centres and single licensing system and overseeing regulatory service centres.

Zambia still has a long way to ensure regulatory reforms and smooth operations of all government ministries and agencies are aligned. Most of the mishaps we see today are not as a result of lack of regulatory provisions or laws, but lack of implementation of existing laws, regulations and policies. The need for an efficient government system can not be overemphasized. An efficient and effective public sector is key to national development as the government is the custodian of the national treasury, which if efficiently executed, would lead to allocation of resources to the most productive sectors that would spar a more aggressive Gross Domestic Product – GDP, economic and social growth rates.