The Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities & State Enterprises (COSASE) has highlighted a pressing issue that could hinder the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) in their fight against substandard goods. The committee, led by Hon. Gerald Nangoli, has appealed to the Ministry of Finance, Planning, and Economic Development to allocate funds to UNBS specifically for the destruction of substandard products in the market.
A Challenging Situation
According to the committee’s report, UNBS currently lacks a designated budget line for disposing of substandard items that enter the country or are seized during market surveillance operations. Consequently, the warehouses of the Bureau are overflowing with these problematic products awaiting destruction.
Hon. Nangoli, presenting the committee’s findings, explained that while the responsibility of funding the disposal of substandard goods technically rests with the entities found in possession of non-conforming items, there are significant challenges regarding enforcement.
The process of destruction often relies on court decisions, leading to lengthy delays in addressing the issue. This extended timeline means that many substandard items must be stored for extended periods, further complicating the problem.
The Need for Financial Support
In light of these challenges, the committee has called for financial support to enable UNBS to cover the costs of disposing of impounded and abandoned substandard goods. In addition to the financial shortfalls affecting the disposal process, the committee also identified another problem: understaffing, especially at border points.
The Auditor General’s report indicated that UNBS only had staff presence at 27 out of the 170 border entry points. This was largely attributed to financial constraints resulting from budget limitations.
While the committee has recommended allocating funds to UNBS for the destruction of substandard goods, not everyone is in agreement. Hon. Samuel Opio of Kole North County raised concerns about the sustainability of this approach.
He suggested that in many jurisdictions, fines are imposed on those found with substandard goods, with the proceeds earmarked for covering the cost of destruction. Therefore, he recommended a review of the legal framework to ensure that fines adequately address the issue.
State Minister for Trade, Hon. Harriet Ntabazi, shed light on another challenge. She revealed that several trucks were stranded at the Elegu Border due to a lack of materials and testing equipment used by UNBS.
The root of the issue, she explained, lies in the budgetary constraints, as all funds paid by millers and exporters currently go to the Consolidated Fund, making it challenging for UNBS to access the necessary resources.