As expected, the ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB) has cleared the AS9100 certification body NQA, USA from any violations of ISO 17021-1 after it was found to have threatened a client for hiring Oxebridge to help resolve nonconformities from an NQA audit.
NQA’s Director of Quality Arlen Chapman threatened an Orlando company for having brought Oxebridge’s Christopher Paris on board to assist after an NQA auditor wrote 23 nonconformities. Chapman harassed the client saying they would “have problems” if they hired Paris to help them, but Chapman was not aware the call was on speaker phone and there were multiple witnesses. A formal complaint was filed with NQA, which dismissed the complaint without explanation. The complaint was then escalated to ANAB, which has now ruled similarly.
Without any evidence or explanation, ANAB has simply stated that no violations of ISO 17021-1 occurred. Bizarrely, ANAB claimed to have relied on evidence from an ANAB witness audit who was not present for the phone call.
A key principle of ISO 17021-1 is that of “impartiality,” which it defines as “the presence of objectivity.” The standard then goes on to add two clarifying notes to further enforce the concept:
Objectivity means that conflicts of interest do not exist, or are resolved so as not to adversely influence subsequent activities of the certification body.
Other terms that are useful in conveying the element of impartiality include “independence”, “freedom from conflict of interests”, “freedom from bias”, “lack of prejudice”, “neutrality”, “fairness”, “openmindedness”, “even-handedness”, “detachment”, “balance”.
The standard goes on further to state that a valid threat to impartiality is “intimidation,” which it defines as “threats that arise from a person or body having a perception of being coerced openly or secretively.”
Despite the clear violations by NQA of this concept, ANAB’s Lori Gillespie dismissed the complaint entirely, without any explanation or justification for its decision.
At no time did anyone from NQA issue an apology for the slanderous statements made by Chapman, which were clearly aimed at costing Oxebridge business.
ANAB has been criticized by Oxebridge and other industry stakeholders for allowing its CBs to ignore and even violate accreditation rules since the CBs pay ANAB, and any enforcement by ANAB risks it losing its major source of income. The latest decision by Gillespie may act as the most overt example of such “caving in” by ANAB, which Oxebridge has called a “full and complete abdication of its one and only responsibility.”
Oxebridge has also provided testimony to the US Dept. of Defense and other government agencies on ANAB and its certification bodies, raising questions as to whether ANAB is now helping in the harassment of a protected whistleblower.
The ruling thus empowers ANAB accredited certification bodies to not only continue to market “approved” consultants, such as those in NQA’s “Associate Consultant” program, but also to viciously denigrate consultants outside of its network, to the point of threatening clients with difficulties during certification audits.
The incident arose when an NQA certified client underwent a routine AS9100 audit, but with a new NQA auditor who was being witnessed by ANAB. Despite prior audits having resulted in few to no nonconformities, the new auditor wrote 23 nonconformities, classifying 17 of them as “majors.” The only change made to the company was the assignment of the new NQA auditor.
It was later discovered the auditor had falsified his employment history and aerospace experience; making matters worse, the auditor later denied having performed the audit for NQA at all, claiming only to work for NQA’s competitor, NSF-ISR. A formal complaint with the auditor certification body Probitas has been filed against the auditor, who no longer appears to be working for NQA.
It is not clear now NQA hired an auditor with falsified industry experience.
The client eventually fired NQA and has since hired DEKRA to conduct its AS9100 certification audits.