The Executive Director of the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), Dr. Ben Manyindo delivered UNBS’ annual Performance report for the FY 2019/2020 to the public on Monday 5th October 2020, at the Uganda Media Center in Kampala.
UNBS’ core mandate is to develop, promote and enforce standards to ensure competitiveness of locally manufactured products and to protect the health and safety of consumers and the environment against substandard products.
Over the past one year, UNBS undertook activities in accordance with approved work programmes and budget. The activities were aimed at improving competitiveness of Ugandan products to access regional and international markets, improving the quality of products on the market, ensuring accuracy in measurement systems to promote fair trade and improving public awareness on quality standards.
The total approved budget for FY 2019/20 was UGX 68.9 Billion of which UGX 59.7 Billion was released by end of the Financial Year. The Bureau generated and remitted Non Tax Revenue UGX38.2 Billion to the Consolidated Fund during the year which constitutes 64% of the released budget during the year.
‘The year has presented an unprecedented challenge imposed by COVID-19 that has made UNBS rethink the way of doing business. However, we have used this crisis to harness opportunities for businesses seeking standardisation services as below’;
2.0 Certification of Products required in the fight against COVID – 19
- Sanitizers: By March 2020, only two companies had been certified to manufacture Hand sanitisers. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of manufacturers dramatically increased. Accordingly, by 30th June 2020, 209 companies (with 254 brands) had been certified.
Ii.Food distribution: UNBS deployed a full time (seven days a week) field team comprising of 25 staff at the OPM stores in Nakawa where the food supplies were being delivered. UNBS also maintained 20 staff at its laboratories, working 7seven days a week, to ensure expeditious testing of the samples of food being delivered to the laboratory for quality and safety testing. Of this, maize had an 80% compliance rate, while dry beans had a compliance rate of 77%.
iii. Non-medical Face Masks: UNBS developed standards for facemasks and was able to certify over 40 companies to produce non-medical facemasks by June 2020. It is mandatory for anyone above the age of six to wear a facemask in public space.
- Improved competiveness of locally manufactured products to access export market
During the FY 2019/2020, UNBS undertook Product Certification and Management Systems Certification to improve the quality of locally manufactured products so that they are able to access regional and international markets.
We recorded an increase from 1350 products certification permits in FY2018/19 to 2705 permits in FY2019/20. And 62 permits under system certification. All UNBS certified products were able to access the wider EAC market.
This is a second year into the implementation of the UNBS Distinctive Mark, 2018 regulation. The new regulation made it mandatory for products covered by compulsory standards to be certified and issued with a distinctive mark before they are allowed on the market. As a result, we witnessed an exponential increase in the number of Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSMEs) seeking certification. During the FY 2019/20 we registered 1168 MSMEs and visited 304 MSMEs for on-site technical assistance and gap analysis. 1068 MSMEs visited UNBS and were provided with technical advisory services (compared to 929 MSMEs in FY2018/19), to build their capacity to apply standards and produce products that conform to standards thus contributing to the government’s export promotion strategy.
The shortfall was due to; failure by a number of MSMEs to pay fees for both testing and auditing despite registration, failure by MSMEs to address gaps in conformity to standards identified during certification, low technology base among MSMEs, Shortage of staff to handle the increased number of applicants to assist MSMEs through the certification process and of course challenges imposed on the sector by Covid 19 pandemic.
UNBS would like to further appeal to Government to provide a specialised fund to support MSMEs certification, competitiveness and access to regional and international markets.
4.0 Standards Development
Standards and conformity assessments improve efficiency of production and facilitate international trade thereby contributing to Uganda’s economic development.
In FY 2019/20, we developed 505 new standards bringing the total number of standards for use today, to 3948.The standards developed support key sectors of the economy and act as a catalyst for economic growth. Of the new 505 standards, 110 are in the area of Food and Agricultural sector, 148 in the Chemicals and consumer products, 125 are for Engineering and 122 for Management and services.
- Agricultural sector Standards
Standards for major staple foods such as maize, beans, wheat, sorghum and millet were revised and updated to ensure quality and safe commodities are available for consumption thus contributing to improvement of the food security Uganda and livelihoods of the rural communities considering that generally food crops contribute 12.8% of GDP annually. The standards also contribute as part of the approaches to meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals especially goals 1 & 2 on No poverty and zero hunger respectively.
- Standards simplified and translated in Local Languages
To boast Standards comprehension, internalisation and implementation, UNBS simplified select food and agriculture standards into easy to use guidelines and translated them into the most widely spoken Ugandan languages; Luganda, Luo, Ateso, Lumasaaba, Lunyoro-Kitara among other languages with support from the Commonwealth Standards Network (CSN) and translation work into other languages is ongoing to enable their easy implementation.todate, Over 600 farmers in the districts of Kabarole, Hoima, Ibanda, Kasese, Kayunga, Kiboga, Otuke, Lira, Soroti, Agago, Sironko/Mbale, Bugiri, and Amuru have benefited from this intervention.
UNBS will then have standards enforced with nobody having any excuse for pleading ignorance, but they could still ask for advice on how to fully comply.
- Standards for the Fishing Industry: Standards supporting the fishing activity were developed in the FY 2019/20. Fishing is a major economic activity on especially Lake Victoria, Albert and Kyoga and the revenues from the activity impact on millions of livelihoods in the country and majority youth engaged in the activity.The Fisheries sector contributes 1.5% to the GDP of the country with export receipts in excess of USD 140 million.
- Indigenous Standards for Edible Insects: Standards for edible insects were also developed prompted by the increased trade of edible insects and their products in Uganda. These include grasshoppers (Ensenene) termites, Locusts, crickets and other edible insects. These are to be applied by Ugandans selling edible insects for commercial purposes, to ensure that what they sale meets the standards and is not harmful to Ugandan citizens.
- 0. Laboratory Product Testing
The construction of the Food Safety Laboratories at UNBS Bweyogerere Headquarters were completed during the year and they are now fully operational.
UNBS laboratories are internationally accredited which means the test results are recognised globally.
For the period under review, UNBS tested over 1060 product samples mainly products used by government in the fight against covid 19.
To date, UNBS registered increase in efficiency in terms of turn round time from 25 days in FY 2019 to 18 days in 2020.in line with our promise to customers of delivering laboratory test reports within 21 days upon submission of a product sample for testing.
- .Ensuring quality products on the market through;
Market surveillance inspections undertaken to ensure that we have quality products on the market to protect the health and safety of consumers. In this regard, we undertook a number of activities in enforcing standards to ensure that we have quality products on the market to protect the health and safety of consumers.
In FY 2019/20, we registered 11% increase in our market surveillance inspections with 7,345 market surveillance inspections conducted against 6,646 inspections conducted in FY 2018/19 .The Inspections conducted covered over 56% of the entire country
Cosmetics and body care products topped UNBS list of non-complying products followed by beverages, building materials and food stuffs with most results registered in the central, western, eastern and northern regions respectively.
UNBS also notes increased sale of substandard products through the mobile vans and distribution trucks accounting for 58% of the total number of inspections by UNBS during its market surveillance inspections for the period under review. About 8% of the market surveillance inspections were conducted in manufacturing facilities mainly bakeries, beverage factories, maize millers resulting in 173 seizure mainly sealing/seizure of premises due to poor hygiene and this led to the seizure of hundreds of tons of substandard foodstuffs.
These include, among others, 840 metric tons of maize flour which would have been distributed to 280,000 people almost 20% of the COVID-19 relief food beneficiaries.
The prevalence of the substandard goods on the market is still a challenge especially from the informal business thus calling for more efforts in consumer vigilance, market information sharing, partnership at local governments and consumer awareness.
Imports Inspection; under imports inspection and clearance regulation 2018, all goods covered by compulsory standards must be inspected in the country of origin for compliance with Uganda Standards before they are imported into the country.
During the year under review, 153,256 inspections of products under compulsory standards meeting 83% of the set target for the year. 62,551 inspections were undertaken under the PVoC program, indicating an increase of 27,000 compared to the previous year which shows an increase in adhering to PVoC requirements which provides a guarantee that the majority of the imported commodities are meeting the requirements of the standards. Without PVoC, too many substandard product that we lack testing capacity would be on the market.
We also expanded UNBS presence at additional border points that include Mirama Hills OSBP; Elegu OSBP and Mpondwe; Coverage of more ICDs and other import clearance points in Uganda and Mombasa. Expansion of UNBS operations to more commodity entry points in the country has led to an increase in the number of declarations inspected. For example in 2014, 80,648 declarations were inspected compared to the 153,250 declaration inspected in 2019/2020
Therefore, increasing UNBS presence at entry points has resulted into a widened eyesight for the prevention of entry of substandard products into Uganda hence enabling fulfilment of the Bureaus mandate of protecting both the consumer and the environment.
In the year under review, a total of 232 metric tonnes of substandard goods worth UGX 2.5 billion were destroyed. The substandard products destroyed were intercepted by UNBS through the import inspection and market surveillance operations.
7.0 Ensuring Accuracy of Measurement Systems
- Maintaining accuracy of measuring equipment used in trade is an important aspect of a commercial transaction. Accurate measurements ensure that the seller trades the correct amount while the buyer gets exactly what they pay for.
- UNBS inspects weighing equipment used in trade for accuracy to protect both the buyer and the seller in a commercial transaction thereby promoting fair trade. Accurate instruments are issued with a UNBS Sticker as evidence that the accuracy of the instrument has been verified.
- 343,687 Electricity meters verified; Utility companies use meters for measurement of units sold to consumers in a commercial transaction. UNBS regulates such transactions by verifying meters used by utility companies. Currently UNBS verifies all electricity meters used by power distributors for accuracy before they are installed on their distribution networks.
- The energy meters section acquired new equipment, which included 2 fixed test benches and 6 portable test devices. Installation of new test benches and potable test equipment in the Energy meters laboratory increased our daily meter output from 1,000 to 3,150 meters and a monthly output to 171,600 meters there by improving on our verification timelines and customer satisfaction.
- Verification of fuel dispensing pumps; 18,049 measuring equipment under volume and flow that include dispensing pumps, pressure gauges, road tanks, and static tanks were verified.
- Verification of road tankers. UNBS acts as an arbiter in the transport and supply of fuel by verifying the accuracy of road tankers. In FY 2019/2020, we verified 2500 road tankers against a target of 2151.
- Opening up of the rig that increased our daily output from 4 trucks to 10 trucks per day. This intern eliminated the long queues at the rig, which were caused by drivers waiting for our services
- Verification of weighing equipment used in trade. Weighing scales used in day-to-day commercial transactions at grocery stores, butcheries, supermarkets, etc. should measure accurately. A total of 678,004 weighing equipment that include, counter machines, spring balances, platform scales, weigh bridges and weights were verified. The launch and rolling out of e-Minzani and the expanded scope of the E-minzani to cover E-Meters will go a long way towards improving service delivery and resource accountability for all weighing and measuring equipment.
- With the increasing economic activity, we have witnessed increasing number of bulk measuring equipment such as weighbridges. Last year we verified 190 weighbridges to ensure that they are measuring accurately.
- Pre-packaging. UNBS inspects pre-packaged products to ensure that all goods meet the labelling requirements and that the displayed weight reflects the actual quantity of the packaged item. We inspected 5,488 samples against a target of 6000 samples.
- ICT and Automation of UNBS Services
UNBS continues to invest in ICT platforms for enhanced service delivery.
- UNBS has been able to automate most of its services including the development of UNBS APP where all UNBS services can be accessed on the APP, Roll out of the E-minzani platform for better service delivery, the e-truck/e-rig for better records management,
- In 2019, the System for Mobile Verification Tool (SMVT), a new ICT tool was deployed for the section of energy meters. It captures verification data for electricity meters both during in-house or field verification, and this enhanced service delivery. LIMS for laboratory, the e-portal for imports inspection, SIMS for standards and web store for procurement of standards on-line.
- The e-truck/e-rig; a management information system used for verification of fuel tankers was also rolled out and this manages information faster and more convenient than the traditional method of recording information.
The COVID-19 pandemic found most of the UNBS services online and this greatly contributed to the institution’s business continuity during the covid-19 lockdown.
9.0 Decentralisation of UNBS Services
In addition to the e-platforms, UNBS continues to decentralise its services to bring service delivery closer to Ugandans. As a result the market surveillance and product certification functions are fully operational in Gulu, Mbale and Mbarara.
The laboratory testing services are to be decentralised too. So far, the testing laboratory in Gulu is nearing completion.
10.0 Focus in FY 2020/2021
UNBS focused efforts will continue with deepening the decentralisation of UNBS services in the country side, increased engagement and collaboration with Local Governments and partners to reduce the substandard goods on the market while empowering MSMEs to export to regional and international markets.
Quality and standards have greater potential to unlock most challenges facing the country. Indeed most countries that have developed in terms of trade and investments have invested in the national quality infrastructure of standards, conformity assessment and metrology.
The FY 2019/2020 registered unprecedented challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.UNBS has however harnessed this opportunity to facilitate local manufacturers in line with the Buy Uganda and Build Uganda (BUBU) policy through offering technical guidance and standards to ensure production of safe and good quality products for all Ugandans.
Eng. Dr. Ben Manyindo
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, UNBS
October 5th, 2020