The Fort Worth Police Department Crime Laboratory is under a third investigation in three years over its quality assurance methods, even as it continues to hold accreditation by the ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB). The revelation is the latest blow to ANAB accreditation, which is increasingly found to be tied to laboratories linked to improper testing and companies accused of fraud.
The Fort Worth lab is accredited to ISO 17025 for the scope of “forensics testing” with an accreditation expiration of 2017. It is not clear when the ANAB accreditation was first awarded.
According to reporting by the Dallas Morning News, an investigation by the Texas Forensic Science Commission “is focused on concerns about the proficiency testing of employees, but it appears to be widening.”
A final report was delayed last month after the commission discovered that the lab’s quality assurance manager recently deleted documents as she left her employment there.
Commission general counsel Lynn Garcia called the issue “pretty serious” at a January meeting and said investigators had not yet determined “to what extent” documents were deleted. She also said the commission was concerned about possible errors in measurement of seized drugs and blood-alcohol analysis recently discovered by the American National Standards Institute’s accreditation board.
This is the third such investigation since 2020. In that year, a DNA analyst at the lab filed a whistleblower complaint, alleging corruption. Lab management allegedly responded by threatening employees, which led to a mass defection of laboratory staff. ANAB “temporarily reduced the scope of services the lab was authorized to perform” because of the reduced staff levels, according to the report.
Another investigation in 2022 found that the Fort Worth lab had hired someone with falsified professional credentials, “in its eagerness to replace the missing DNA analysts.”
Despite the multiple probes and complaints, ANAB has not withdrawn the accreditation of the Fort Worth lab.
Pattern of Concerns
The controversies are not new for ANAB. Recently, ANAB refused to take action against a Nevada-based cannabis testing lab that now faces a 10-year ban and criminal penalties for fraud.
In the UK, The Guardian news organization determined that 90% of carbon offsets issued under an ANAB-accredited voluntary carbon offset program were “worthless” and “likely to be phantom credits [that] do not represent genuine carbon reductions.”
In 2022, the defense contractor Bradken was found to have falsified test data for materials sold to the US Navy for submarine construction. The falsification continued for over thirty years, despite Bradken having undergone dozens of audits by multiple ANAB-accredited certifiers. The eventual investigation led to the arrest of a Bradken metallurgist, and the company was forced to pay $10.9M to avoid criminal corporate prosecution. At no point did Bradken ever lose its ANAB-accredited certifications.
In 2018, multiple ANAB-accredited certificates were found linked to defective Chinese aircraft components sold to the Moog corporation.
In 2015, the US Dept of Defense Inspector General’s office found dozens of “major nonconformities” at companies certified by ANAB-accredited certification bodies. Despite the public nature of the DODIG’s reports, ANAB took no action, and the companies involved all retained their accredited certifications.
Defense contractor SAPA paid millions in fines and was blacklisted by NASA for falsifying aluminum extrusion data, which the agency said contributed to the loss of two rocket missions. The company held ANAB-accredited certification to AS9100 for its manufacturing operations.
In 2010, a Houston BP Oil management office held ANAB accredited certification to ISO 9001, despite having caused the Deepwater Horizon environmental disaster.
The Takata plants responsible for the design and manufacture of defective airbags, which led to the automotive industry’s largest worldwide recall and the resignation of Toyota senior executives, both held ISO certifications accredited by ANAB at the time.
For years, ANAB was led by the son of one of the certification bodies that held ANAB accreditation. The board refused to take action against claims of conflicts of interest.
ANAB has had similar problems the political front. The body had initially resisted demands to comply with EU and US sanctions against Russia, after the invasions of Crimea and Ukraine, as it had clients in that country. In March of 2022, ANAB VP Lori Gillespie refused to commit to honoring the actions, a potential OFAC violation under US law, saying, ANAB would “[continue] to analyze the impact of these events and sanctions.” However, roughly a week later, two other ANAB VPs reversed course. ANAB had granted accreditation to Russian Register (RR), which has heavily supported the Putin regime’s invasions of its neighbors. RR continues to market its ANAB accreditation, and ANAB has apparently taken no practical steps to stop it.
Conflicts of Interest
ANAB is held to a higher standard, ISO 17011, through its membership in the International Accreditation Forum. Laboratory accreditations are managed by the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation, which is set to merge with the IAF this year. However, neither IAF nor ILAC have taken any action against ANAB, likely because ANAB acts as the IAF’s official accounting office, preparing that organization’s annual tax filings for the IRS. This raises a conflict of interest that the industry has yet to address.
ANAB is owned by ANSI, which has also refused to look into problems with ANAB accreditations. ANSI president Joe Bhatia has testified before Congress multiple times, assuring the government that all was well on his watch.
The problem with IAF-matrixed accreditations of forensics labs is international. In Australia, the Queensland police forensics lab is under investigation for reducing sampling rates to accommodate its workload, resulting in “thousands” of blood samples going untested. Those practices, done under accreditation by the Australian accreditation body NATA, came to light after a cold murder case was reopened under a Royal Commission of Inquiry.
NATA is overseen by the IAF regional body APAC, but the CEOs of both organizations are close personal friends, who have each granted the other roles in their organizations. The CEO of NATA is currently the Chair of APAC. Again, the IAF has refused to investigate the conflicts of interest.
ANAB continues to perform accounting duties for IAF.