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About Compulsory Specification

Compulsory Specifications are technical regulations that require conformity of a product or service to health, safety, or environmental protection requirements of a standard, or specific provisions of a standard. The term is only used in South Africa. NRCS is mandated to advise the Minister on matters related to compulsory specifications and has historically managed the development process.

The standard made compulsory must be a national (i.e. SANS) standard. In the absence of a suitable national standard, another type of standard or specification may be made mandatory.

The WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (WTO TBT), to which South Africa is a signatory, requires that standards and technical regulations should not be used as barriers to trade. National standards should be aligned with or identical to recognized international equivalents, and technical regulations should comply with international regulatory norms.

Similar requirements apply to the WTO Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (WTO SPS, the agreement covering foods), and to Legal Metrology (ie measurements and measuring instruments used in trade incl. legal, health, safety and environment).

South Africa like most other countries has a legacy of legislation that does not comply with these requirements or recognized international best practices. NRCS has reviewed all compulsory specifications and is engaged in revisions of all that do not meet these requirements.

Development of Compulsory Specification

The development and enactment of legislation including regulations is a core function of the Government. NRCS is mandated to advise the Minister of Trade,​ Industry and Competition on matters relating to compulsory specifications and develops compulsory specifications and other relevant regulations on his behalf.

The process of developing or amending a Compulsory Specification is inclusive, transparent, and independent of both commercial interests and those of the NRCS operational units that administer them. It is managed by an independent specialist department, Strategic Support Services, that is also responsible for the development of operational policies, business strategy, and an operational model designed to achieve regulatory effectiveness.

Any person or organization may submit a request, in writing, to the NRCS CEO for the development or amendment of a technical regulation with the necessary motivation. The due process followed is aligned with accepted international best practice and involves extensive consultation with all identified stakeholders at all stages in the process.

The main steps are:

  • Feasibility study;
  • Investigation and research;
  • Development of a Regulatory Impact Assessment covering all issues relating to and possible outcomes and consequences of its implementation;
  • Publication in the Government Gazette for public scrutiny, comments, and objections during a period of not less than 2-month
  • Notification of WTO members;
  • Any person or body including WTO member states may comment on or object in writing to the introduction of the compulsory specification within the 2 month period;
  • Consideration of submissions by a review committee. The committee may recommend changes based on the submissions received;
  • Approval by the Board of the NRCS;
  • Ministerial approval; and
  • Promulgation in the Government Gazette.​

New or amended compulsory specifications take effect at least 2 months after the date of promulgation. The period may be extended where justified by market conditions, costs of new investment by industry, and many other factors including impact on SME's and exports.

Compulsory specifications are periodically reviewed for continued relevance and applicability in line with National interests.