The Metrology Bill proposed to replace the old Weights and Measures Act of 1981 will not only widen the offences under which one can be charged, but will also feature more stringent fines and prison sentences for those who fall afoul of the law.
The Bill, which is expected to be introduced by year-end, has benefited from previous consultations dating from 2012. It will govern metrological practices in Guyana that are overseen by the Guyana National Bureau of Standards (GNBS).
These practices range from measurements used by shopkeepers when selling goods to measurements used for large-scale commercial packaging and shipping of commodities.
Whereas the Weights and Measures Act 1981 had set out penalties such as a fine of $1000 or imprisonment for six months, the updated law while keeping the six-month formula has upped the fines to as much as $1 million for specific offences, that can be applied concurrently.
According to Section 32 of the proposed bill, “Whoever uses any false weight or false measure of capacity, or uses any weight or any measure of length or capacity representing it to be a different weight or measure from what it is, commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $500,000 or imprisonment for a term of six months or to both such fine and imprisonment.”
Section 34 goes on to lay out that forging seals used to stamp measuring equipment, removing the stamp, altering equipment after it was stamped and then proceeding to sell such equipment are all offences that carry similar penalties on summary conviction.
In cases where individuals sell, ‘expose for sale’ or use any measuring equipment that has not been verified and sealed by an inspector for trading purposes, they run the risk of paying a $1 million fine, spending six months in jail or both.
There are similar provisions for any attempt by an individual to hinder an inspector from carrying out his duties under the Act, by assaulting, obstructing, bribing or attempting to bribe, using abusive or indecent language or generally failing to comply with an inspector.
There are also provisions against corrupt inspectors, with the Act also prescribing a fine of not more than $1 million and six months’ imprisonment for inspectors who accept or attempt to solicit bribes.
The Act gets tough on persons who sell pre-packaged goods for which the quantity, net weight or measure is not marked on the package or container. According to the Act, these are all offences that upon summary conviction expose one to a maximum fine of $500,000 and/or six months’ imprisonment.
In addition, the Act outlaws the repair or manufacture of weights and measures without having the appropriate certificate or licence issued by the authorities. That offence, upon conviction, carries a maximum fine of $300,000 and imprisonment.
The proposed bill had its genesis in 2010 when funding was made available under the Support for Competitiveness Programme (SCP) to develop a National Standardisation Strategy. This included the establishment of a National Quality Infrastructure (NQI) in Guyana.
Since metrology is an important part of the NQI, the revision of the Weights and Measures Act 1981 is intended to address the deficiencies of the old Act.
Public consultation sessions were conducted throughout Guyana, including in Regions Two, Three, Four, Five, Six and 10. During these consultations, stakeholders and participants were informed of the content of the document while using the platform to provide their input.
It is understood from the GNBS that the proposed Metrology Bill was also reviewed by the Caricom Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) to ensure that it was in line with similar legislation in the various Caricom member states that were recently revised.
The Bureau has been calling for the public to become acquainted with the Bill; in the case of shopkeepers, merchants and businesses, to ensure that they do not break the law and for consumers, to know what forms of redress they can seek.