The head of APAC (Asian Pacific Accreditation Cooperation) mistakenly copied me on an email, and accidentally revealed the scam behind IAF accreditation oversight.
Way back in 2018, we filed a formal complaint against the Indian certification body LMS Certification. That company has been using an Indian consulting firm, operating as e-Startup India (also, “e-Digital Services India”), as its sales arm. e-Startup sells consulting, alongside certification issued by LMS, a gross conflict of interest and violation of ISO 17021-1.
Making matters much worse, e-Startup only requires you send them a check for $500, and some of your internal documents, to get the certification:
LMS ignored the matter, so we escalated it to their accreditation body, IAS. They claimed to have done something, but the same problem resurfaced in 2021. You see, e-Startup is a notorious spammer and they have Oxebridge on their mailing list; so, they keep sending us their spam-scams no matter how many complaints we file. Dummies.
In 2021, e-Startup sent another email offering LMS certification alongside consulting by another consulting firm, called VRTTI. (I assume VRTTI is just another in the many names that e-Startup uses.) The email included “sample” certificates with the IAS logo. That meant IAS hadn’t really done anything back in 2018, and the problem continued.
Worse, LMS had purchased an ISO 17021-1 “template kit” from one of IAS’ own Board Members, Devang Jhaveri, who operates a consulting company called Global Manager Group. IAS has refused to dismiss Jhaveri for the conflict of interest, and none of the oversight bodies — like APAC or IAF — have taken action. Emanuele Riva, the new Chair of IAF, scrambled to give IAS protection, and claimed the arrangement was perfectly compliant to ISO 17011. With that ruling, Riva legitimized every certificate mill on the planet, and emboldened the IAF’s main competition.
The fact that LMS was not only accredited by IAS, but also a customer of one of their Board members, seemed to explain why they hadn’t taken any action from the 2018 complaint. When I filed a new complaint in 2021, IAS grew indignant (as they like to do), and explained that they didn’t need to withdraw LMS’ accreditation, since LMS had switched accreditation bodies. They then said, “Please further note, IAS has also maintained contact with LMS Certification on their transition of certificates under their new accreditation body.”
The IAS rep then said that IAS maintains a webpage for “Publication of Transgressions,” but that page didn’t have LMS listed at all. Regarding the rest of the issues, such as Jhaveri’s conflicts of interest, IAS blew them off entirely:
As for rest of the items in your email, we have already reviewed and responded in detail to both Oxebridge and IAF in the past and have nothing further to add.
So at the end of that exchange, it appeared anything that IAF had done related to LMS was entirely behind the scenes, since they couldn’t provide any actual proof. I insisted that APAC take up the case, but they — as usual — did nothing.
Now we fast forward to today, in June 0f 2022. Graeme Drake, the head of APAC (and, apparently, their only employee), accidentally copied me on an email intended for IAS, signing it “Ged”:
Hello Karthik and Mohan, just doing the quarterly sweep of complaints – is this complaint from Paris now closed out based on IAS’s response on 6 December 2021 below?
There are a lot of takeaways from this brief email, so let’s unpack them:
First, Graeme Drake is not altogether bright when it comes to managing emails.
Second, the tone of the email reveals just how chummy APAC is with the accreditation bodies in its stable. Remember, ABs join IAF regional groups, like APAC, to undergo allegedly “objective” oversight peer assessments, in order to have their compliance to ISO 17011 verified. The IAF and APAC insist this process is rigorous and impartial, but all evidence suggests otherwise. It’s a pay-to-play boy’s club, and “Ged’s” email reveals this.
Third, Drake reveals he does a “quarterly sweep of complaints” related to the ABs in his stable. The word “sweep” probably just means a quick drive-by, but it also invokes a cleanup activity. Either way, it’s not good. APAC is supposed to be upholding the conformity of every AB in its membership to ISO 17011, because trust and integrity — and even human life! — is on the line. Drake’s casual “sweep” implies he could not care less.
Fourth, the fact that the head of APAC has to do his own “quarterly sweeps” reveals that APAC may not have any actual employees, other than Drake himself. If so, then APAC is a far shadier organization than I thought. They only have one Australian dude assigned to oversee all of the Asia Pacific? There is no way that APAC can ever operate properly, if Drake has to do everything himself.
Fifth, the fact that this is “quarterly” implies it is routine, if not formally proceduralized. That’s troubling, because APAC is supposed to be investigating these complaints themselves, not offloading the responsibility back onto the subjects of the complaints.
Sixth, he just calls me “Paris” which shows how little respect he has for me. That’s to be assumed, however, since I accused him of ostrich genocide. So he gets a pass on that from me, but it does show — again — his contempt for oversight.
And IAS has a new problem. Since the 2021 complaint, the idiots at e-Startup spammed me two more times, providing me even more recent evidence that the problem with LMS isn’t over. At the same time, the LMS site still claims IAS accreditation, on two whole pages (here and here.) Here’s a screenshot:
So at this point, it’s now four years that IAS has been unable — or unwilling — to stop LMS from using its name and logo. Meanwhile, ISO 17011 requires:
4.3.5 The accreditation body shall take suitable action to deal with incorrect or unauthorized claims of accreditation status, or misleading or unauthorized use of accreditation symbols and the accreditation body logo.
NOTE Suitable actions can include requests for corrective action, suspension, withdrawal of accreditation, publication of the transgression and, if necessary, legal action.
Remember, it’s APAC’s job to make sure that IAS complies with that paragraph, and they’ve also let this problem ride for four years.
Given the chummy email from “Ged”, I think we can see why IAS hasn’t prioritized this.
Still not clear why this matters? Consider this: LMS offers product inspection for CE Mark, food safety and other criteria that affect human health. If they are lying about their ISO certifications, and using e-Startup to market them via full-on fraud, then it’s likely those inspections are entirely fake. And people can die from that.
IAF needs to de-list APAC immediately.
About Christopher Paris
Christopher Paris is the founder and VP Operations of Oxebridge. He has over 30 years' experience implementing ISO 9001 and AS9100 systems, and is a vocal advocate for the development and use of standards from the point of view of actual users. He is the author of Surviving ISO 9001 and Surviving AS9100. He reviews wines for the irreverent wine blog, Winepisser.