MAPUTO– The Mozambican government’s National Inspectorate of Economic Activities (INAE) imposed fines totalling 55.6 million meticais (about 950,000 US dollars) on businesses in 2017, for a variety of offences, notably lack of hygiene and cleanliness in establishments handling food, but most of the fines have still not been paid.

INAE General Inspector Rita Freitas told a media conference here Wednesday that so far, the State has only received 15.4 million meticais. The rest of the fines are still being processed, or have been handed over for collection to the courts or the tax collection services.

The INAE section responsible for the largest amount of fines was the INAE-Central office in Maputo, which imposed fines of 22.5 million meticais, of which 10.1 million have been paid to date.

Freitas said INAE had carried out 23,777 inspections throughout the year. The sector with the largest number of inspections was restaurants (4,131), followed by wholesale trade (1,898) and industry (1,836).

During the festive season INAE stepped up its activities, inspecting 5,829 establishments, a significant increase on the 4,818 inspected in the 2016/2017 festive season. Freitas said that over the holiday period 107 INAE units had been operating.

INAE had received various complaints from consumers, particularly concerning the wholesale price of beer. The price fixed by the sole company producing beer in Mozambique, Cervejas de Mozambique (CDM), is 450 meticais for a crate. But some wholesalers were charging 470 or 480 meticais per crate. Freitas said INAE stepped in, and forced the wholesalers to reduce the price to the CDM recommended level.

There were also attempts to speculate on the price of eggs, which were in short supply in parts of the country. In the central province of Manica, for example, shopkeepers hiked the price of eggs to unjustifiable levels. They cut the prices when they realised that an INAE inspection brigade was in the vicinity, but raised them again as soon as the inspectors had left.

It was very difficult to control this, said Freitas. In some cases, eggs were seized and sold at public auction, to prevent other sellers from continuing this type of behaviour, she said.