There was drama in Parliament when MPs protested and later threw out the budget proposals presented by Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), arguing that the money allocated to the standards body was a joke.
The lawmakers warned not to pass the UNBS’ 2017/18 budget if the money allocated to the Bureau isn’t increased by Government.
The officials from UNBS had appeared before the Parliamentary Committee on Trade on April 13, 2017, but the meeting turned chaotic when UNBS presented a proposal of Shs30bn, a figure that was seen as too small to fight counterfeit and substandard products flooding the Ugandan market.
In their policy statement for 2017/18 national budget, UNBS revealed that whereas the body is in need of Shs123bn, the Government was only committed to providing Shs30bn.
This revelation angered Legislators who threw out the officials, ordering them to go and harmonise their differences with Ministry of Finance, arguing that it was time Government got serious about fighting counterfeits.
Gordon Bafaki, Kazo County MP noted that the proposal presented by UNBS indicated that the Bureau had no input in the budget, with Ministry of Finance dictating on what to take.
“As a Committee, we are not satisfied by the budget presented to us by UNBS for approval and we have decided to chase them away so that they go and prepare a budget that comes from their department,” Bafaki said.
With the country grappling with counterfeit products, and the agriculture sector being hit hardest with fake seedlings and pesticides costing farmers, the Legislators argued that the Bureau needed to be empowered financially, to put an end to this menace.
“We are seeing a lot of substandard goods on the market and we have been wondering where they pass to enter into the country. We have told them to go and prepare their own budget and bring it back to the Committee to see how we can help them to get money from Ministry of Finance,” Bafaki added.
UNBS Executive Director, Dr. Ben Manyindo admitted to journalists that the Bureau is grappling with shortage of man power and the Shs123bn will be critical at hiring staff to take down the criminals flooding Uganda’s market with fake products
He also decried the old stone technology being used to fight counterfeits, noting that the perpetrators are devising new means to smuggle fake goods in the country yet UNBS needs to be ten steps ahead of their tricks.
“The current budget is only Shs30bn which is about 25% (of the required Shs123bn), so we are still very far. We need to recruit more staff, buy more equipment; our establishment is 640 (staff); we are currently only 295 (staff). That is why, we say that the capacity of the bureau is still very low. We shall return and submit our actual budget that we need to serve Ugandans,” Manyindo said.