As we come to the end of the year 2016, it is the time to reflect on the achievements that the UNBS family and all our stakeholders have made towards making our country Uganda a better place. Improved quality of life is the desirable goal and Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) has a major stake in realisation of this cause. As custodians of standards and guardian of quality, UNBS National Standards Council, management and staff wish to take this opportunity to thank very much all our partners for your contribution and support to UNBS.

The UNBS staff are committed and continues to provide the necessary services in their areas of expertise and in particular, standards development, certification, market surveillance, imports inspection, laboratory testing and metrology. Support is also provided by Human resource, finance, ICT, procurement, legal, public relations and administration. By close of FY 2015/16, UNBS had achieved all its set targets.  I would like to applaud and thank the staff, development partners and Agencies such as Trade Mark East Africa (TMEA), Sida through QUISP program, USAID, Rural Electrification Agency (REA), the Ministry of Energy (MEMD) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for the continued support to UNBS activities. Collaboration and strategic partnership with SEATINI, KCCA, ERA, URA, the Media, UMA, PSFU, KACITA, USSIA, UNCCI and East African Grain Council (EAGC) is acknowledged.

Through the continued support and guidance of the Ministry of Trade & Cooperatives and the National Standards Council, the Bureau remained focused to its mission and vision and has as a result scored a number of achievements in 2016. These include:

  1. Increased awareness on quality standards through stakeholder engagements, participations in the various trade fairs, workshops and celebrations of the World Metrology Day held in Mukono and the various recognition quality awards held at and out of Bureau premises at Bweyogerere. The UNBS toll free line of 0800 133 133, social media platforms and the website www.unbs.go.ug continue to provide the desired interface with our stakeholders.
  2. The number of Uganda standards developed and available for regulation and trade facilitation are 2899 standards. These include 837 in food and agricultural products, 1089 in engineering and building materials, 673 in chemical and consumer products; and 300 in management services.   These standards also include standards in the oil and gas sector. Out of these standards about 43% (1250) are for mandatory application and enforceable.
  3. UNBS has a MSME desk under which assistance in standards and quality awareness, training and technical advice is provided to small enterprises. According to UNBS data, there are 479 quality certified companies (119 under S-mark, 285 under Q-mark, and 75 under systems certification). These companies have between them 1,151 products that have attained the UNBS quality mark. Additionally, UNBS is assisting 90 companies improve their internal processes and documentation in order to obtain quality certification.
  4. Testing of products from industry to verify conformity to standards is undertaken in UNBS accredited laboratories of microbiology, chemistry, building materials, and electrical engineering. The number of samples has been increasing per year to the extent that the laboratories have become too small and congested requiring construction of new facilities. The number of samples tested annually for industry and also imported products has surpassed 9,000. Under the UNBS Laboratory recognition scheme, 5 more laboratories both private and public have been granted permits to undertake testing to complement UNBS testing capacities and capabilities.
  5. Out of 45 government agencies, UNBS was voted by private sector as the best performing government agency of the year.

Protection of the Consumers and fair trade

Enforcement of standards in order to protect the health and safety of consumers as well as offer a levelled playing field for trade continues to be the biggest challenge facing UNBS. However efforts have been made as follows:

  1. Implementation of Pre-Export Verification of Conformity to Standards (PVOC) requires that products coming into Uganda are inspected by technical inspectors in the country of origin ad are issued a certificate of conformity. This program has assisted in reducing the substandard imports coming in Uganda. However it is not being embraced by small traders who continue to bring in goods to be inspected at the borders causing unnecessary delays and increased cost of doing business.
  2. A UNBS e-portal service is an electronic platform that allows the importers to clear their goods on line. This reduces clearance time and reduces cost of doing business. PVOC certificate facilitates this process and all traders are encouraged to use it.
  3. New services introduced: these are geared to improved service delivery and cutting costs of doing business. They include the e-portal, the e-tag which is a phone based electronic service for verification from the UNBS database genuine products by consumers. LIMS is laboratory information management system for tracking progress of testing of samples in the laboratory and making test certificate accessible online.
  4. Collaboration with KCCA and URA. MoUs were signed between UNBS and the agencies in assisting to curb substandard goods on the market.
  5. Sensitization of the consumers and business community on quality standards continue to be a proactive measure in reducing substandard products on the market.
  6. Prosecution of the offenders who do not comply with standards. UNBS has received the services of 3 CID officers from the police to help in processing of files for courts.

Improvement of working conditions of staff

  • Construction of Standards House: Ever since its establishment in 1989, the Bureau has been renting different premises thus escalating rent and administration costs. The offices at Bweyogerere are providing a serene work environment for staff; and have been constructed using government funds to the tune of UGX 14 billion.
  • New services in Legal Metrology: Any error in measurement for custody transfer of fuel may result in millions of shillings being lost. That is why calibration of fuel road tankers must be accurately determined and made known. The construction of a national calibration rig at UNBS for accurate determination of volume of fuel road tankers has helped the oil companies minimize loses to that effect.
  • Increased NTR: UNBS funding comprise of government grants and Non Tax Revenue (NTR). Over the last 4 years NTR has been enhanced from UGX 3.7 billion to UGX 14.3 billion as a result of increased scope of services, minimizing revenue leakage and increased supervision.

Focus on 2017

As we look forward to 2017 and moving Uganda into middle income status by 2020, the Bureau shall continue to focus on standardisation and quality assurance along various value chains, but shall also allocate resources for standardisation in the services sector, and measurements in the oil and gas sector. A national standardisation strategy aligned to National Development Plan II in consultation with key stakeholders for goods and services will be developed. The stakeholders will inform the plan and strategy of which standards and quality assurance infrastructure are required to drive Uganda’s economy to a middle income status taking into consideration the regional and international dimensions.

The prioritised areas will include among others:

  1. Putting in more effort in curbing substandard goods in the market place so that all Ugandans can enjoy improved quality of life. Stakeholder engagement will be intensified as well as sanctions and prosecution of offenders in order to enhance increased compliance to quality standards. UNBS will work with all stakeholders to have only quality marked and quality assured products on the market through compulsory certification of both imported and locally manufactured goods.
  2.  Leveraging on ICT to improve UNBS efficiency by designing and using electronic platforms for service delivery and continuous feedback from our stakeholders. This is to ensure that our services are FASTER, SIMPLER AND BETTER.
  3.  Supporting Industry certification and especially MSME in growing their business to access regional and international market while promoting fair trade. The manufacturers/producers are encouraged to register their products with UNBS.
  4.  Increased transparency and accountability by promoting the UNBS core values of professionalism, integrity, customer focus, innovation and teamwork.
  5.  Tapping on synergies with other agencies while focussed on increased resource mobilization by engaging government and partners to empower UNBS deliver on its mandate.

Consumer Tips

As we break for the festive season, let all of us commit ourselves to quality standards. As we shop and buy, check expiry dates and packaging integrity of the products you buy, look out for quality marks for locally produced goods, do not buy from hawkers, get a receipt for items you buy from known suppliers; and avoid night and hurried shopping as this provides avenues for fake goods. In the event of being cheated and sold substandard goods or underweight products, please contact UNBS on toll free line number 0800 133 133.

On behalf of the National Standards Council and management, I wish our stakeholders Happy Xmas celebrations and a full year of happiness and prosperity in 2017. God bless.