Fighting of substandard goods on the market requires a concerted effort by all stakeholders including the media as part of social responsibility. UNBS as the mandated lead agency will provide the leadership required including coming up with innovative mechanisms to address this issue. Substandard goods fall short of the minimum set standards to protect the health and safety of the consumers, the environment and prevention of fraudulent practices. To date UNBS has developed over 600 compulsory standards that must be enforced. The standards fall in the category of: Agriculture& Food products, Electro technology products, Building materials, Consumer products and chemical products (www.unbs.go.ug).
Why should Government (UNBS) and the consumer be concerned with substandard goods?
What does the existing law say?
Section 21 (1) of UNBS Act (cap 327 of the laws of Uganda) states:
“No person shall import, distribute, manufacture, sell or have in his or her possession or control for sale or distribution any commodity for which a compulsory standard specification has been declared unless the commodity conforms to the compulsory standard specification”. Section 26 (2) states that: “Any person who contravenes section 21(1) commits an offence”.
So, what is UNBS doing?
UNBS has set a 5 point programme as focal point for its service delivery. These are also enshrined in the UNBS strategic plan 2012-17:
Substandard goods on the market are the biggest challenge for UNBS at the moment. The root cause of these substandard goods is traced to greedy business people who want to make money through fraud, ignorance of unsuspecting consumers at any costs including unfortunately compromising people’s lives. The substandard goods on the market are therefore a result of:
UNBS strategies to reduce substandard goods on the market
UNBS has come up with a number of strategies to reduce substandard goods on the market. These include:
a) Introduction of pre-export verification of conformity to standards (PVoC) where goods are inspected in the country of origin. Unfortunately the people who largely benefit from importing substandard goods have resisted this to date and turned political. UNBS is working to ensure that this programme that has been tested elsewhere comes in effect 1st June 2013.
b) Increased awareness of both consumers and business community in investing in quality and its benefits. A monthly program is undertaken by UNBS to this effect throughout the country. A UNBS Quality Club (face book page) will also be launched in the near future where we encourage business communities and individuals to become members and advocate for a quality culture in the country.
c) Collaboration with the Media, Local authorities, the Police and other Government departments is also being undertaken to ensure that issues of standard are included in their programmes in area of enforcement and awareness and training of SMEs.
d) Amendment of UNBS Act that will impose deterrent penalties of offenders who are found violating the law. Enforcement of the law and prosecution of offenders will be increased when Parliament passes the amendments.
e) A market surveillance team has been put in place to traverse the country to ensure that expired goods are removed from the shelves and destroyed and sensitisation on quality standards are is also undertaken through radio presentations.
f) Training and provision of technical advice to MSMEs to ensure that they put on the market standard complying goods. An SME desk has been set up at UNBS and has so far trained over 370 enterprises in the country and many are nearing certification of their goods.
g) UNBS is in constant engagement with Government to increase on its budget so as to increase staff as well as provide logistical support to reduce substandard goods on the market and implement its strategic plan.
The above measures when fully implemented should see a drastic reduction of substandard goods on the Ugandan market. To report any complaint call UNBS toll free line 0800 133 133