Consumer Protection: Holding the Bureau of Standards Accountable

screenshot_2016-10-11-17-10-48-1Most countries have a bureau of standards. Uganda has the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS). Kenya has the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS). Tanzania has the Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS). Rwanda has the Rwanda Standards Board. These standards bodies work closely with manufacturers, importers and customs bodies to ensure that the market has quality goods fit for the purpose for which they are manufactured.

A bureau of standards is usually a corporate body, established by statute. Commonly, the role of a bureau of standards is to:

  1. To undertake measures for quality control of commodities, services and environment of all descriptions and to promote standardization in industry and trade;
  2. To make arrangements or provide facilities for the testing and calibration of precision instruments, gauges and scientific apparatus, for the determination of their degree of accuracy and traceability by comparison with standards approved by the Minister of Industry and Trade on the recommendation of the Board of Directors, and for issue of certificates in regard to them;
  3. To make arrangements or provide facilities for the examination and testing of commodities and any material or substance from or with which, and the manner in which, they may be manufactured, produced, processed or treated;
  4. To approve, register and control the use of standard marks in accordance with the provisions of the all legislation regarding standards;
  5. To grant, renew, suspend, vary or cancel any license issued for the use of any standards mark;
  6. To assist industries in setting up and enforcing quality assurance and environmental management systems procedures;
  7. To prepare, frame, modify or amend National Standards;
  8. To encourage or undertake educational work in connection with standardization, quality assurance, metrology, testing and environment;
  9. To assist the Government or any other person in the preparation and framing of standards;
  10. To co-operate with other Government agencies, representatives of any industry or any other statutory corporation or person with a view to securing the adoption and practical application of standards;
  11. To provide for the inspection, sampling and testing of locally manufactured and imported commodities with a view to determining whether the commodities comply with the provisions of the legislation on standards or any other law dealing with standards relevant to those commodities;
  12. To act as the custodian of the measurement standards of weights, and measures, and from time to time adjust, replace or cancel any standards where the adjustment, replacement or cancellation is necessary for the maintenance of conformity to the international standards;
  13. To be the signatory of the mutual recognition arrangement with other national metrology institutes;
  14. To collect, publish and disseminate literature and other materials on standardization and other related subjects and to provide facilities for the members of the public to have access to the materials;
  15. To carry-out, promote or assist in research on standardization and related subjects;
  16. To participate in, or to make arrangements for conferences, workshops, seminars and discussions on matters connected with the body’s activities;
  17. To co-operate with regional and international organizations in all matters related to standardization and quality assurance and represent the country in such matters;
  18. To publish from time to time an updated version of a national standard for the quantities and units of measurement to be used which shall be in conformity with the latest version of the International System of Units;
  19. To undertake pre-shipment verification conformity (PVoC) to standards; and
  20. To do all other acts and things, and enter into any transactions, which are, in the opinion of the Board of Directors, expedient or necessary for the proper and efficient discharge of the functions of the Bureau.

In the performance of its functions the Bureau keeps an eye on the health, safety, environment and general welfare of the people of the United Republic; and maintains, as far as may be practicable, a system of consultation and co-operation with any corporation established by or under any written law and having functions similar or relating to industrial or commercial standards generally.

Their mandate is linked to consumer protection. Consumers must purchase quality goods that are fit for purpose.

But every often these bureaus of standards are very disappointing. Sometimes, they are a hive of corruption and one cannot simply tell how some things happened below their noses.

Look at the featured image for this article.

The juice was purportedly packed on the 19th of October. We still have days to the 19th of October. It is even more disheartening to learn that the juice is packed by a manufacturer in East Africa. Their products are well consumed in East Africa, it’s a no wonder that you will find them in almost every supermarket.

But what is this? This is negligence by both the manufacturer and our public body. This is fraud. Imagine the health issues you would get exposed to if you consumed such a product?

And can we say this is the first occurrence? We can never be sure. Look out for manufactory date and the expiry date of any product before you consume it. It looks like we are on our own.

We need answers from our bureaus of standards.


This article appears in our digital magazine, The Deuteronomy Vol 7, Issue 2 of October 14th, 2016

To receive The Deuteronomy in real time, click HERE.


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