Back in October of last year, a client of mine underwent their initial ISO 9001 certification audit with a registrar who — for now — I’m not going to name. During the Stage 1 audit it was mentioned that ANAB might be witnessing the coming Stage 2, something no one really wanted. I mentioned to both my client and the CB that I could probably get ANAB to skip it, since it was unlikely ANAB would willingly want to come to a client if I would be physically sitting in the room with them. Later we were told that ANAB was not coming, so I didn’t pursue it.
A few days out from Stage 2 we found out that, yes, ANAB was coming. There was nothing we could do at that point, and the client’s QMS was bulletproof anyway, so we weren’t particularly worried. I was looking forward to getting to watch ANAB in action.
The audit was an unmitigated disaster. The auditor was an arrogant, bloviating racist, who made openly disparaging remarks against Muslims, which was all the more shocking since the CFO of the company — the guy who paid the registrar’s bill — is Muslim. He made sexist comments about women, but these were sly enough that no one seemed to notice. He ranted on obsessively about guns, guns, guns, oblivious to the fact that one of the people in the room listening to his personal political blather had been a victim of gun violence. Oh, and there were Hillary Clinton jokes… lots and lots of Hillary Clinton Jokes; which is fine, if you can be 100% assured that everyone in the room is equally against Clinton, which of course he couldn’t know.
But despite flooding the audit with his personal biases, how he conducted the actual audit lacked any semblance of adhering to accreditation rules. He invented requirements that didn’t exist, then threatened to eject anyone who disagreed with him. He wrote findings not against ISO 9001, but some random documents he claimed he saw on the internet, which we later confirmed didn’t exist. He falsified his audit reports for both the Stage 1 and Stage 2, entering his consulting advice as if we had not only thought of it, and had already agreed to it. He even had the client sign a blank nonconformity form, saying “trust me,” and then slipped a controversial nonconformity onto the stack without revealing it to anyone. When the client complained, he threatened to sue for defamation. I’m not kidding… he literally threatened to sue, going so far as to provide the name of his legal counsel. In the end, we prepared a formal complaint that documented, with evidence, eighteen violations of ISO 17021-1 accreditation rules, occurring only over a three day period.
Remember, now: the entire thing was witnessed by two ANAB auditors, who were there to audit the registrar against ISO 17021-1. At one point, I even pulled the ANAB auditors aside and asked them to informally counsel the auditor, but the ANAB lead auditor asked me what the violations were, because he hadn’t seen anything. I was dumbfounded.
The second ANAB auditor had an excuse, sort of: he had just had surgery and was presumably still on painkillers, so spent every day napping during the audit, in front of everyone in the room. The client saw this, the CB auditor saw it, and even the ANAB lead auditor saw it. Yet ANAB did nothing.
Even after witnessing the impossibly over-the-top response of an auditor threatening to sue a complainant, ANAB did nothing. It’s as if inertia is their natural state.
Worse still, even knowing that sitting in the room was the single guy on the planet who has the best chance of having their organization shut down entirely — me — they didn’t care. The abdication of duty was so overt, so openly displayed, it can only be explained by saying the entire culture of ANAB is hopelessly and impossibly corrupt. They cannot even be bothered to pretend to do their jobs. At the very least, ANAB should have apologized to the client, even informally, for their sleeping auditor. Beyond that, even their minimal duties should have led them to cite the auditor for one or two violations, and demand a corrective action by the CB. They did none of that. Apparently affected by some weird mood swing, the CB auditor pretended to “forget” about the lawsuit threat and then proceeded to schedule himself for the next audit, with the blessing of the CB home office. This proved that ANAB had taken no action at all, leaving the auditor so untouched, he felt he could just come back to work as if nothing had happened. It took a letter from the client firing the auditor to get the situation resolved; left to ANAB and the CB, this auditor would continue to work, happily auditing in violation of the rules, and threatening to sue anybody who dared report him. Now you can see why I am being unusually circumspect. If I name the auditor, or the CB, I could wind up in litigation prematurely. But it’s not off the table.
And of course, the auditor is a so-called “industry expert” who also happens to run a consulting company, and is the “senior staff lead auditor” at his CB, whatever the hell that means.
Eighteen violations. The auditor was averaging an ISO 17021-1 violation once every 90 minutes. Can you imagine? There’s no point in filing the complaint, obviously, since the CB will deny it, and ANAB will have to deny it, lest they appear culpable. So it’s a dead issue before it even gets filed. Handing it over the the IAF is pointless, since ANAB’s Randy Dougherty is the IAF Chair, and the IAF doesn’t care if CBs help break international law, so they’re not about to do anything against ANAB for allowing its auditors to saw logs during audits.
The bad news for ANAB is that even without filing a formal complaint, this entire event was documented and witnessed by multiple parties, including a co-auditor from the offending CB itself. One of the attendees actually took a photo of the ANAB auditor sleeping in the corner. There is no possible way for ANAB to dig out of this. This not only goes on the pile alongside a decade of evidence of other ANAB misbehavior, it nearly shoots to the top as the best and clearest exhibit of malfeasance to date.
Have you witnessed troubling behavior by ANAB? Are you a CB frustrated with their uneven oversight? Email us your stories; all communication remains in confidence.
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 9001:2015. He reviews wines for the irreverent wine blog, Winepisser.