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International Accreditation Forum says “commercial pressures may lead [certification/registration bodies] to act inappropriately

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QualityZoneIn a statement issued on 17 January 2002 and headed 'IAF Requires High Standards of Integrity from its Members', Noel Matthews, Secretary of the International Accreditation Forum said that the IAF was "concerned at recent public statements questioning the integrity of the conformity assessment programs operated by accreditation bodies" [this appears to refer to claims by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) of dishonesty and malpractice. Click here for the full story].

Matthews went on to say "IAF well understands that the reputation of the conformity assessment system relies upon the integrity and competence of accreditation bodies. IAF is aware of the commercial pressures on certification / registration bodies and the suppliers they certify that may lead them to act inappropriately. IAF requires its Accreditation Body Members to apply rules which are designed to identify and stamp out any such inappropriate behaviour.

"IAF Members are required to comply strictly with the International Standards or Guides relevant to their operations and to guidance issued by IAF on the application of those Standards or Guides. IAF will continue to work with other interested parties to ensure these standards and guidance documents are subject to revision to address aspects where amendments are necessary to support their efforts to eliminate inappropriate behaviour.

"IAF and its Members work tirelessly and continually to seek and destroy any activities which would put at risk the confidence of industry and customers in the outcomes of accredited activities. In that regard IAF itself has an effective Complaints Procedure. All complaints lodged with IAF are fully investigated, and, where inappropriate actions by any Member are demonstrated, action to prevent repetition of inappropriate action is taken.

"IAF requires all its Accreditation Body Members to have in place effective complaints procedures to ensure that all complaints that are made to the body are thoroughly investigated and corrective action taken. Accreditation Body Members of IAF are required to ensure that the bodies they accredit also have in place effective complaints procedures. IAF recognises that its own complaints procedure and the complaints procedures of its members and their accredited bodies can only deal effectively with inappropriate behaviour when it is reported to them and evidence sufficient to justify action is provided.

"IAF is concerned that unsubstantiated criticism is too often made publicly without any evidence to justify the criticism. IAF encourages any person or organisation which has evidence of inappropriate behaviour by any conformity assessment organisation to provide that evidence either to IAF itself or to any Accreditation Body Member of IAF. IAF assures all persons with information which suggests inappropriate behaviour by an organisation accredited by a Member of IAF, or certified by a body accredited by an IAF Member, that all information provided will be acted on aggressively. IAF is determined to eliminate any practice which brings the conformity assessment system into disrepute.

"Of course IAF is aware that there are in the world a number of organisations which purport to be accreditation bodies or certification / registration bodies which are not Members of IAF, or accredited by Members of IAF, or one of the IAF Regions. IAF can not act against such bodies, even if malpractice is demonstrated, as it has no legal authority to do so. IAF warns consumers and industry against using the services of such organisations, which are not required to adhere to the high standards of integrity required of Members of IAF.

"IAF assures industry, commerce and their customers that it will aggressively protect the reputation and integrity of Accreditation Body Members of IAF and the organisations they accredit. IAF urges all companies to ensure that they only contract with conformity assessment bodies which are accredited by Members of IAF, which adhere to the highest standards of integrity and competence.

"IAF is aware that the needs of industry and commerce are constantly changing and that standards, guides and rules that were acceptable in the past may no longer be adequate to meet emerging situations. IAF continually reviews its own rules and guidance to deal with emerging issues. IAF is also ready and willing to meet the specific needs of industries whose requirements go beyond the requirements in existing International Standards. IAF will develop in co-operation with any industry with special needs sector specific accreditation programs to meet those needs".

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