Can an Accreditation Body that is linked to a separate legal entity that provides consulting services have a website with direct hot links to the website of the linked separate entity that provides consulting services and meet the impartiality requirements of ISO/IEC 17011:2017 Section 4.4?
No, if an AB has publicly available in its website (or otherwise) a direct link to a consultancy organization (that is not an accredited CAB and listed as such in its Directory of Accredited CABs) it should be considered as an infringement of clause 4.4.13 of ISO/IEC 17011: 2017.
Can an Accreditation Body that is linked to a separate legal entity that provides consulting services have personnel (internal staff or external contractors) carry out consulting activities for that linked body and meet the impartiality requirements of ISO/IEC 17011:2017 Section 4.4?
No, unless exceptional conditions are met. If the AB’s ‘internal’ staff is providing consulting services, the AB would need to demonstrate simultaneous compliance with several clauses of the standard, namely: – 4.4.4: staff acting objectively, in absence of pressures and disclosing potential conflict of interests; – 4.4.6-9: risk analysis to impartiality, stakeholder consideration of acceptable public perception if AB internal staff provides consultancy, etc.; – 4.4.12.b) and d): effective mechanisms to prevent influence on the outcome of accreditation activities. – 4.4.13: nothing can be said or implied that would suggest that accreditation would be simpler, easier, faster or less expensive if any specified person(s) or consultancy were used;
The analysis of acceptability needs to include a review of the functions that the staff providing consultancy for the ‘Linked Body’ are assigned to do in the AB and the risk arising can differ significantly depending on the tasks performed. It should be noted that the standard forbids any staff providing consultancy to participate in accreditation decision-making.
Regarding clause 4.4.6, note that it may not be sufficient to forbid consulting and assessing to the same customer, to ensure that self-evaluation risks are sufficiently mitigated.
The note to clause 4.4.13 indicates that AB’s personnel can participate as lecturers in training and similar activities, but states that they cannot provide specific solutions to a CAB, so any form of consultancy that includes this would violate the clause.
Can an Accreditation Body that is linked to a separate legal entity that provides consulting services have shared resources (office space, finances, sales, marketing, accounting, human resources, legal counsel, etc.) and meet the impartiality requirements of ISO/IEC 17011:2017 Section 4.4?
The absence of ‘shared resources’ is not required by clause 4.4.12 and is therefore not applicable; however, ‘shared resources’ can be a source of risk to impartiality (Note 1 of 4.4.6) and it should be considered in the risk analysis process covered by clause 4.4.6. The type of resource being shared can introduce additional requirements that should be considered, for example: – sharing office space can infringe confidentiality and public perception requirements; – sharing personnel can violate confidentiality, impartiality, and public perception requirements; – sharing finances can violate confidentiality requirements and allow commercial and financial pressures to appear; – sharing sales or marketing prevents meeting clause 4.4.13.
Can an Accreditation Body that is linked to a separate legal entity that provides consulting services have common owners, or a person who holds a higher position above the managers of both organizations meet the impartiality requirements of ISO/IEC 17011:2017 Section 4.4?
No, unless strict and exceptional conditions are demonstrated to be met: – Because of the common ownership between the AB and the separate legal entity that provides consulting services, then they are deemed to be linked and the AB must fulfil all the conditions in clause 4.4.12 of ISO/IEC 17011:2017; – Regarding the person who holds a higher position at both organizations, this person cannot perform any of the activities listed in clause 5.7 as this would be a violation of §4.4.12 a). Careful consideration must be made to ensure that person is not involved in any of the AB top management activities outlined in clause 5.7 of ISO/IEC 17011:2017.
In clause 4.1.3 of the standard reference is made to threats to impartiality arising from the inspection body’s relationships. Can you give examples of relationships which may constitute a threat to the inspection body’s impartiality?
Examples of relationships that could constitute a threat to the impartiality of the inspection body include: – Relationship with a parent organisation – Relationships with departments within the same organisation – Relationships with related companies or organisations – Relationships with regulators – Relationships with clients – Relationships of personnel – Relationships with the organisations designing, manufacturing, supplying, installing, purchasing, owning, using or maintaining the items inspected
Consider the case where an inspection body (IB) is a public enterprise that reports administratively to a Ministry. The Board and the Director General of the IB are appointed by the Ministry, and the IB reports financial results and overall performance to the Ministry. The Ministry requires assurance on the quality of grains, cereals and pulses for export and also requires an assurance of the same as imported into the country. The Ministry submits the sample to the IB, and following inspection, the inspection report is submitted to the Ministry for acceptance or rejection of the batch. The Ministry is the biggest client of the IB, with over 90% of the order volume coming from the Ministry.
Does this inspection body qualify as a type A inspection body?
The situation described is not acceptable for a type A inspection body.
The scope statement in ISO/IEC 17020 makes clear that one of the major aims of the standard is to ensure the impartiality and consistency of inspection activities.
According to ISO/IEC 17020, Annex A.1d) the following apply to inspection bodies type A: “The inspection body shall not be linked to a separate legal entity engaged in the design, manufacture, supply, installation, purchase, ownership, use or maintenance of the items inspected by the following: – Directly reporting to the same higher level of management, except where this cannot influence the outcome of an inspection – Contractual commitments, or other means that may have an ability to influence the outcome of an inspection.” In the case described the inspection body fails on both counts. i) The inspection body reports to the Ministry that has a critical role in the supply chain of the products inspected and has a very plausible path for exerting influence. ii) The contractual arrangement between the inspection body and the Ministry means that failing to follow directives from the Ministry could pose an existential threat to the inspection body or its senior management.
Two possibilities needs to be considered: a. Does the Ministry have a supplier interest by its role in the provision of grains, cereals and pulses? b. Does the Ministry have a user interest by its role in the provision of grains, cereals and pulses?
While the Ministry may or may not directly buy or sell the inspected products, the Ministry has a critical role in the supply chain of the inspected products as its declared role is to control imports and exports. a. The impartiality requirements are all about incentives that organizations have that might result in bias in the inspection activities. An organization that engages in the supply of grains, cereals and pulses has incentives to be biased toward a favorable outcome for the inspection activities. The Ministry’s declared objective is to assure that no substandard grains, cereals or pulses leave or come in to the country. However, Ministries implement policies that are essentially political and therefore the Ministry could plausibly have political motives to influence the results of inspections. For example, if the Government has pledged to reduce imports, to support local producers, there could be pressure on the inspection body from the Ministry to fail imported marginal products. b. For exports the Ministry has the declared interest of the user of these products in the foreign country, as the Ministry wants to assure these users never receive substandard products. However, if the Government has made commitments to increase exports, exerting pressure on the inspection body to pass marginal products would be a plausible means of increasing export tonnage without bringing in unpopular quality controls on producers. It would be naïve to believe that Ministries did not follow the direction of their Ministers, including wielding influence wherever possible to achieve the targets set for them.
As the Ministry appoints the senior management of the inspection body and presumably reviews their performance, there is a clear path for pressure to be applied. Also, in any economy, the possibility for a Minister to subtly apply pressure through the Ministries they oversee should not be disregarded.
From the description provided it is clear that the inspection body is not independent of the Ministry. In the situation described it seems that the inspection body and the client directly report to the same higher level of management. The situation that 90% of inspection orders are coming from the same source, means that there is a shared interest between the inspection body and its client. The circumstances described are such that they can influence the outcome of an inspection.
In clause 7.1.6 of the standard refers to “information supplied by any other party as part of of the inspection process”. Could you examples of what type of information this could be? Could it include inspection results?
Inspection results and information are two different things. Information can be supplied by “any other party”, but inspection results can only be supplied by subcontractors, as described in section 6.3.
Information as referred to in clause 7.1.6 is often supplied by the client. One example would be the owner of an offshore steel platform, providing structural drawings and design calculations identifying stress levels at extreme wave conditions to an inspection body contracted to plan and perform NDT of critical joints.
In bullet a) of Annex A.3 it is stated that the inspection body shall provide safeguards within the organisation to ensure adequate segregation of responsibilities and accountabilities between inspection and other activities. Could you example of such safeguards?
STANDARD: ISO/IEC 17020 · CLAUSE: Clause 4.1.6 · TOPIC: Independence Type C
Safeguards that ensure adequate segregation can include e.g. – organisational separation; – reporting arrangements; or – procedural practices that protect the inspection activities from undue influence arising from other potentially conflicting activities.
In clause 7.1.2 of the standard it is stated that the inspection body shall have and use adequate documented instructions on inspection planning and inspection techniques, where the absence of such instructions could jeopardize the effectiveness of the inspection process. Could you give examples of when such instructions would be required?
In our experience, the normal situation is that the absence of instructions can jeopardize the effectiveness of the inspection process. There could be a number of reasons for this, e.g.
– the inspection points/hold points need to be agreed before the inspection activity is initiated; – the choice of items or locations to be inspected cannot be considered random; – different local situations or characteristics of the items or locations to be inspected allow for a choice between different inspection techniques; or – adequate sampling requires advance planning and/or preparations.
In clause 5.2.2 of the standard it is stated that the inspection body shall be managed so as to enable it to maintain the capability to perform its inspection activities. What actions can the inspection body take to enable it to maintain the capability to perform its inspection activities?