The platform includes an e-portal that will facilitate online filing of applications for goods inspection and integrated electronic databases for management of lab testing activities, standards inspection and payment channels.
Currently, it takes more than three hours to deliver a certificate of analysis for product tests done at UNBS laboratories in Kampala to customs stations like Malaba.
In addition, physical filing of applications for product tests has frequently generated queues, leading to frustration among importers.
Under the e-portal, certificates of analysis will be accessed online, which will save on travel costs and time.
However, lack of decentralised testing facilities, owing to inadequate funding, importers will continue to deliver physical product samples to UNBS offices in Kampala.
Funding is also blamed for inadequate staffing at the standards agency; a situation that has restricted its border operations to a 12 hour schedule unlike its partner agency, Uganda Revenue Authority that currently enjoys 24 hour, and seven-day-customs operations.
“The new automated system will help integrate lab testing functions, standards inspection and payments channels on a single platform that will be supplemented by an intercom system to connecting our staff in real time. In addition, we are considering distribution of mobile data gadgets to our staff to facilitate upload of information while in the field,” explained Topista Agoa Mpora, the ICT Co-ordinator at UNBS.
Though the automated platform promises more efficiency than the manual system, importers of chemical or biologically active products which require microbiology tests that sometimes take up to five days will still have to endure long waits.
Local businesses are upbeat over the prospect of improved services at UNBS.
“As part of the general economy, we feel UNBS is a bit challenged on technical systems. It lacks sophisticated testing tools, has suffered from underfunding and needs vigorous staff training to enable it deliver better services,” said Richard Wejuli Wabwire, corporate relations and regulatory affairs director at Uganda Breweries Limited.
But some traders feel a one stop integrated standards control and customs system would deliver more efficiency and even lower rates of corruption that hurts local business people, according to Issa Sekitto, spokesperson for the Kampala City Traders Association.
Source: The EastAfrican