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Statement on UNBS market surveillance operation in downtown Kampala

  21st November , 2018

On 14th November, UNBS with support from the Uganda Police Force, carried out a market surveillance operation at the Energy Centre on Market Street. The objectives of the operation were:

  1. To identify specific businesses involved in the sale and distribution of substandard electrical products.
  2. To obtain evidence of importation and distribution of the substandard electrical products.
  3. To seize any substandard electrical products found in the business outlets.
  4. To identify suspected persons involved in the sale and distribution of substandard electrical products for prosecution in accordance with the UNBS Act

The operation focussed on the Energy Centre on Market Street because it had been identified as the main source of substandard electrical products on the market. Such operations will continue to other outlets around the country covering various products.

During the operation, forty-six (46) shops selling electrical items were inspected and about 4 tonnes of substandard electrical products were seized from various shops and taken to UNBS warehouse to aid with further investigations. The business owners were summoned to UNBS CID Office for further investigations and possible prosecution.

This market surveillance activity was informed by test reports of samples picked between July and September, 2018 that were submitted to UNBS laboratory for testing. From the test reports, it was established that about 80 per cent of the samples tested did not meet standards.

The market surveillance activity was carried out in accordance with the Section 3 (e) and (f) of the UNBS Act which gives UNBS the mandate to “...enforce standards in the protection of the public against harmful ingredients, dangerous components, shoddy material and poor performance…” and Section 21 (i) which prohibits the sell and distribution of substandard products: “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…”

Effects of substandard electrical items

Electrical items are widely used in homesteads and workplaces for various purposes and they are among those products that must fulfil compulsory standards due to their impact on health and safety of consumers. Substandard electrical items on the market may expose the users to various risks which include but not limited to:

  1. Electrocution of the user or member of the household due to the exposed live parts.
  2. Explosion due to the poor composition of electrical components such as the casing and cables.
  3. Burning of building arising from substandard wires used
  4. Loss of household income through purchase of less durable products
  5. Unfair competition with products that conform to standards

Whereas UNBS has made significant strides in ensuring compliance with standards, noncompliance continues to pose a challenge. A recent study commissioned by UNBS established that the prevalence of substandard products among the sampled items stood at 54% down from 73% reported in 2013.

UNBS approach to curb substandard products

UNBS uses a multi-pronged approach to fight substandard products in line with international best practices. One of such interventions is to prevent substandard products before they are imported into the market and UNBS achieves this through the Pre-Export Verification of Conformity (PVoC) programme in line with the Imports Inspection and Clearance Regulation 2018. As per the regulation, all imported products covered by compulsory standards must be inspected for compliance to Ugandan standards before they are imported.

The Government of Uganda through UNBS contracted service providers to carry out inspection of products from various countries before they imported. All products that comply with standards are issued with Certificates of Conformity which is the basis for clearance at points of entry. Products that do not meet standards are denied entry. As a result of this intervention, UNBS was able to stop about 32 million of dangerous substandard products from being imported into the country. Such products would have had adverse effects on health and safety of consumers and the environment.

We have noted that substandard products are brought into the country by unscrupulous importers who often use many tricks to circumvent regulatory requirements by:

  1. Smuggling such products through un-gazzeted entry points;
  2. Mis-declaration of cargo by using wrong HS codes;
  3. Concealment of substandard products so as to avoid detection during verification.

Therefore, UNBS intervenes in the market to deal with such goods that could have come on the market through unofficial channels. However, whenever such people are found with the substandard products, they have often failed to provide evidence that the goods were indeed cleared by UNBS.

While UNBS is the government body charged with development and enforcement of standards to protect the health and safety of consumers and the environment against dangerous substandard products; the fight against substandard products requires a concerted effort involving UNBS working together with manufacturers, traders, consumers, and other government agencies. 

For further information, please contact;

Godwin Bonge Muhwezi,

Head of Public Relations,

Uganda National Bureau of Standards

Plot 2 - 12, By Pass Link, Bweyogerere Industrial Park,

Tel: 0700930996; e-mail: godwin.muhwezi@unbs.go.ug 

Website: www.unbs.go.ug