Kenya Bureau of Standards’ (KEBS) business continuity plan has seen it ride the Covid-19 storm that precipitated a global decline in economic activity. With President Uhuru Kenyatta having reopened the economy, the standards’ watchdog is prepared to handle more business in support of manufacturers and traders.
KEBS Managing Director Bernard Njiraini says the organisation has been able to conduct its operations even at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The standards body has been holding online ISO Zoom meetings to develop standards for Covid-19 products such as hand sanitizers, personal protective equipment (PPEs) and masks. These standards are available to the public free of charge as KEBS’ contribution to the fight against the pandemic.
KEBS has certified over 130 firms for the production of face masks; over 540 firms for instant hand sanitizers; two firms for hospital beds; more than 80 firms for other PPEs such as coveralls and gloves; and two firms for critical care ventilators. The product certification programme is a continuous activity at the agency with the aim of ensuring consumer safety.
KEBS also reviewed its product certification process to allow for online applications and remote assessment of production processes to allow for faster turnaround time in issuance of product permits.
Further, it implemented a 24-hour working plan for the testing laboratories to ensure that the turnaround time for samples, especially for Covid-19-related products, was drastically reduced to allow for faster decisions.
KEBS monitors the quality of imported products under the Pre-Shipment Verification of Conformity (PVoC) Programme. Goods are inspected, tested and certified in the country of origin by KEBS-contracted partners who issue the goods with a Certificate of Conformity (CoC).
However, KEBS recently commenced to undertake destination inspection of goods in the quest of easing the ability of doing business in Kenya. Under destination inspection, goods categorised as less risky are shipped into the country without a CoC, inspected and tested locally for compliance to standards and issued with a local CoC before they are released into the market.
Lt Col (Rtd) Njiraini says while the institution facilitates trade through the development and enforcement of relevant standards, it also seeks to protect consumers and handlers of goods.
KEBS exists as a service provider to facilitate industrial growth in the country and as a regulator to protect consumers from substandard goods.
That is why it will never hesitate to withdraw permits of companies whose products do not conform to set standards.
“To grow the economy, we must entrench the culture of compliance to standards,” says Lt Col (Rtd) Njiraini.
He says KEBS is encouraging micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to get the Standardization Mark certification for their products to access regional markets under the mutual recognition of quality marks in accordance to common market protocol.
The KEBS MD points out that, the East African Community, with a population of more than 170 million, is a big market that local MSMEs need to tap.
“They should seek the KEBS Marks of Quality,” says Lt Col Njiraini, revealing that the standards watchdog has subsidised the certification fees for MSMEs which is currently at Kshs 5,800.
KEBS is implementing a Business Continuity Management System based on the ISO 22301:2019 standard which has enabled the organisation to weather the storms of Covid-19 pandemic.
Therefore, KEBS realises the practical importance of having in place a robust business continuity plan to be able to provide its essential services even in the wake of any disruption. KEBS urges manufacturers and business owners to seek for certification to such systems and other related systems like the ISO 9001:2015 - a risk-based quality management system that can help organisations identify and mitigate risks before they occur.
To protect consumers, KEBS has established a fully-fledged Market Surveillance Directorate to enforce compliance with standards at the retail level. The directorate works closely with other government agencies in the fight against illicit trade.