The Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) faces the challenge of understaffing despite being given the huge mandate of developing, promoting and enforcing standards and quality of products and services to facilitate fair trade, promote local industries and protect consumers, its executive director, Ben Manyindo has said.
“At the close of the year, the staff levels were 290 of which 26% are women. This however represents 45% of the required 640 staff and forms the number one challenge for scaling up service delivery to Ugandans,” Manyindo told journalists in Kampala on Tuesday while highlighting the agency’s performance in the financial year 2017/18 that ended on July 1.
Dr. Manyindo appreciated his staff and colleagues who he said had worked hard to produce good results. He lauded UNBS’ partners and stakeholders including the media for supporting the agency in posting positive results.
He said his agency was engaging government for more funding and increasing the manpower which is to scale up standards uptake and enforcement in the country.
UNBS decentralised its services of certification and market surveillance to regional offices in Gulu, Mbale and Mbarara effective July 2018.
“This will further promote production of good quality products by Micro Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSMEs) at regional level thereby contributing to the government’s effort of promoting industrialization of our economy while we continue to protect consumers and the environment from dangerous substandard products,” Manyindo said.
Prevalence of substandard products on the market
Dr Manyindo in his report said UNBS still grapples with the high level of substandard goods on the market. This, he said led the agency to commission a study in 2017 to assess the extent and prevalence of substandard products on the market.
He said the study established a cross section of substandard products on the Uganda market- both imported and domestically manufactured. “On average, 54% of the sampled products failed tests for compliance to Uganda Standards,” he said.
While we note that the proportion of substandard products on the market is quite significant, it has reduced from 73% reported in a baseline study done in 2013, he said.
“Although the actual prevalence is at 54%, the perception level has remained high at 80%. This is an area that requires a concerted effort in being addressed,” he said.
The lower prices charged for the substandard products is the main reason some people knowingly buy such products considering that prices of some genuine products are prohibitively high, the official said, adding that UNBS “shall invest in a mass sensitisation campaigns to empower with knowledge to identify substandard product and subsequently shun them.”
Dr Manyindo’s report shows that 2,278 outlets were inspected against the set target of 2,000 during the financial year just ended.
“The UNBS market surveillance team seized 413 metric tonnes of goods worth Shs3.5 billion. The seized goods would have otherwise been detrimental to the health and safety of consumers,” the report reads in part.
The goods seized included electronics, cosmetics, steel products, iron sheets, food stuffs, toilet papers, agro-inputs, cooking oil, second hand tyres, beers, paints, and cereals, among others.
According to the executive director’s report, 15 cases were taken to court and UNBS secured conviction of 7 cases while 8 are on-going.
Under Imports Inspection function, Manyindo said 133,517 consignments were inspected against planned inspection of 120,000. The increase, he said, was largely due to increased compliance to the PVOC program that requires imports to be inspected from their countries of export before entering Uganda.
“This translates to 8.6 billion products that were inspected out of which 33 million products failed. As a result of UNBS intervention under the PVoC program, we were able to stop 33 million substandard products from being imported into the country,” he said.
During the period, among standards developed included those for maize grain, maize flour, wheat flour, milled rice and dry beans were developed which are important staple foods in the country and contribute to food security, value addition and income generation for small holder farmers. Standards for fertilizers have also been developed to contribute to increasing agricultural production in the country.
UNBS also reports that a standard for green coffee beans was also developed which directly contributes to the achievement of the target by Government to produce 20 million 60Kg bags of coffee by 2020.
Standards for farm tools and implements such as spades, hoes and machetes have been developed to curb the rampant sub-standard tools in the market. A new standard for testing the roadworthiness of used imported vehicles will ensure that the safety of motorists is guaranteed.
Standards for building materials such as cement and building lime have also been reviewed to support the infrastructure projects being undertaken by the Government, Manyindo said.