It is coming to three weeks since Blue Wave Beverages water plant was shut down by the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) on orders of Parliament. After their closure The Investigator dug deeper on why the plant owned by Chinese was shut down.
Reports are rife that the Blue Wave water Beverages Limited has for so long been dogged with quality standards issue but the proprietors have been adamant regarding improving quality standards preferring to rather opt for quick fixation through alleged bribery and influence peddling to quality inspectors. Blue Wave Beverages was commissioned in 2004 at an investment cost of USD$250,000.
Though the proprietors, Yao Shouren Managing Director and her husband Kelvin Liu who doubles as General Manager revealed to The Investigator that their closure was due to what they described as ‘malice’ and ‘sabotage’, The Investigator learnt that the closure is far deeper than what we hear or read in the local media.
What exactly happened?
We at the Investigator can authoritatively report that following a fall out with one of their ‘god fathers’ whom we shall not reveal for now, the exposure of the Chinese ‘ill doings’ at the plant started to give way. Reportedly, a whistleblower petitioned parliament, the Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, the Inspector General of Government (IGG) and the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA).
According to sources in Parliament the Chinese were dubiously dealing in production of sub standard quality water that they sold at relatively cheap price compared to the other bottled water on the market.
The whistleblower implored the August house to urge UNBS to carry out impromptu quality checks on the Blue Wave water picked from the market and when tests were carried out, the results were appalling prompting immediate closure by the Equal Opportunities committee of parliament.
Hon. Mohammed Nsereko the chairperson of the committee and Kampala Central MP said: “People have been complaining of Blue Wave water including Prime Ministers’ office. This water is making Ugandans sick. The company should be closed.” He said what is being investigated by parliament and UNBS is just a tip of the iceberg.
The committee said they are investigating reports that the water is pumped from a swamp beneath a sewerage channel. “We have received reports that these so called investors have also been engaged in illegal gold mining in Mubende district and evading taxes.
We are investigating all these allegations seriously,” said another legislator that preferred anonymity. Blue Wave proprietors are also being investigated for allegedly manufacturing a local potent gin (waragi) at the backyard of their Luzira Industrial Park factory.
A source at Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) revealed to us that they had received reports and complaints of tax issues and purported illegal gold mining by the Chinese and had begun swift investigations.
Apart from the gold mining issues that we independently verified following our investigations in Lubigi gold mining center in Mubende, we are yet to verify the allegations of manufacturing waragi at the Luzira based plant. When contacted to verify these allegations the General Manager Kelvin Liu said: “all that you are asking me, you know. So why are you verifying. Don’t you know?” Liu admitted that the closure was indeed hurting their sales especially now during the peak season. “It is now 19 days we are closed. UNBS is not opening us, it is hot, people need water but we are not producing.” Last week Liu posted on his facebook page pictures of new state of the art water production machine that we are yet to establish if indeed is installed as required by UNBS to meet the required standards.
UNBS swings into action
Just a day after the Parliament summoned the standards watchdog body (UNBS) to explain why they were still allowing the production and sale of Blue Wave water, despite its quality issues to the public, UNBS swung into action and shut down the plant. The Investigator has reliably learnt that despite ‘mounting pressure’ from some scores of ‘top’ ‘state house’ officials, whom we have established are just ‘chewing cash’, the UNBS has stood its feet and said standards must be followed to the dot.
We tried to talk to the Executive Director UNBS, Dr. Ben Mayindo who referred us to his deputy Patricia Ejalu who is also the head of the Technical operations. Ejalu noted that when UNBS last did a test analysis on Blue Wave water, the tests confirmed that it is not safe for human consumption. But surprising the water has been in the market until parliament got note of the same through a whistle blower. Ejalu said Blue Wave production and distribution has been suspended and shall remain so until they meet the required standards and Parliamentary nod.
We dug deeper and discovered that this is not the first time Blue Wave is being shut down due to poor standards. The Investigator had a chat with Supervisor Health Inspectorate KCCA who revealed that Blue Wave has ‘serious’ hygiene issues. ‘We have shut them before due to hygiene issues at the plant. But our prospects visits has indicated that they are improving but they have to improve on their production standards. There is no shortcut,” said Denis Omodi. Omodi said Blue Wave would only be opened if they meet the required quality and health standards.
We didn’t sit back, we looked for Dr. Terry Kahuma the former Executive Director UNBS who was at the helm when Blue Wave was issued with a Q mark quality standards and asked him why he issued them with the quality standards yet many years down the road they are still having quality issues. Kahuma also revealed to us that during his tenure, he had issues with Blue Wave regarding quality and standards. ‘I recall during my term as ED, we shut them down but reopened on condition that they clean up their ‘mess’.
It is so sad that they have not yet sorted out their standards issue,” said Kahuma in an interview. Kahuma had a simple advice to the Chinese ‘investors’: “They need to know that the name Blue Wave is now damaged. They have no short cuts but to improve their quality standards. No quick fix. They need to hire consultants to help them address the issue of improving on quality rather than trying to make quick fix through shoddy means. That is the only way if they will sustain their market notch in Uganda.”