The ANSI-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB) is being sued in US Federal court by a UK company which alleges breach of contract related to ANAB’s accreditation services.
Tsamota Certification Ltd., a UK firm which provides auditing and certification services related to “security and human rights” and specifically for private security contractors, approached ANAB to have their services accredited to offer certification to such contractors under a new standard PSC.1. That standard was developed by ANAB’s mother organization, ANSI, in response to a US Dept. of Defense desire to have private security contractors subject to management system standards in the wake of controversies after recent Gulf War conflicts. In its complaint, Tsamota alleges ANAB offered PSC.1 accreditation while having “extremely limited prior experience.” The nature of the PSC.1 standard requires audits be conducted at the security contractors’ field sites, which include far-flung locations around the world. As a result, Tsamota had to utilize “pilot clients” in Brussels, USA and Niger as subjects for required ANAB witness audits. While Tsamota admits it struggled to finalize ANAB accreditation services due to the scheduling and other factors, it alleges that ANAB was apprised at all times. At the same time, ANAB struggled to schedule auditors to provide mandatory witness audits, a problem which grew to such an extent that Tsamota filed an official complaint against ANAB in February 2016.
After multiple witness audits had been conducted in various countries, ANAB nevertheless canceled Tsamota’s contract outright in October 2016, citing an ANAB rule that such accreditation must be achieved within one year of initial application. Tsamota alleges the delays were the result of ANAB’s internal confusion over its own policies, and its inability to schedule auditors to conduct mandatory witness audits.
Tsamota is demanding repayment of its ANAB fees, reimbursement for lost time and funds, and additional damages. ANAB is seeking to have the suit wholly dismissed, with the court awarding it repayment of its legal fees.
The court filings to date are comprised mostly of pre-trial evidentiary documentation, including long email trails between the parties. Prior to the suit, Tsamota followed ANAB’s procedures and filed an appeal, but the appeals committee was stacked with individuals who could not be seen as independent; this included ANAB staffer Steve Holladay, along with Boeing’s Tim Lee. Lee is largely responsible for the development of the AS9100 standard and accreditation scheme with the IAQG, and both ANAB’s Randy Dougherty and Lee were members of the IAQG Registration Management Committee for years. This points to a largely lopsided appeals process that was unlikely to resolve in Tsamota’s favor.
An outside reading of the filings makes it appear that ANAB was simply exhausted by Tsamota’s scheduling of pilot clients for which ANAB could utilize for witness audits, and that ANAB was merely irked by the February complaint filed against it. ANAB had within its authority to waive the “one year rule,” and Tsamota alleges ANAB was doing just that until VP Lori Gillespie suddenly canceled the contract outright giving Tsamota only 24 hours’ notice.
Tsamota alleges ANAB responded to its complaints by changing the rules midstream to benefit ANAB. A review of ANAB’s “Management Systems Accreditation Manual” does appear to show ANAB rewriting the rules in the middle of the Tsamota conflict. A comparison of the June 2015 and July 2016 versions of the manual show ANAB rewrote, specifically, the section detailing its responsibilities in handling the “one-year rule.” That change came only a few months after Tsamota’s official complaint. Gillespie then notified Tsamota of its withdrawal three months after the manual was rewritten, in October of 2016. The changes in the paragraph are subtle, but do appear to have been made to strengthen ANAB’s position after the fact.
In addition, Tsamota’s filings claim to prove ANAB was changing its rules specifically to limit Tsamota’s appeals options:
The appellate decision did not reinstate the application, but instead asserted new obligations and requirements for proceeding. In effect, the appellate decision would have required TCL to begin its accreditation process all over again. TCL could not simply proceed with the Stage Two audit. Moreover, TCL was denied an opportunity to lodge a final (level 3) appeal in writing to ANAB due to a change in the rules that TCL was informed of after TCL notified ANAB of its intention to appeal ANAB’s decision to withdraw the TCL’s application for accreditation.
Tsamota testified that even ANAB’s appeals board member Tim Lee admitted “other certification bodies have taken in excess of eighteen months to achieve accreditation.”
The inconsistent self-interpretation is likely to create a hurdle for ANAB, who bears sole authority over the development and then enforcement of the rules it creates to manage itself. Oxebridge has long criticized ANAB for selective interpretation of its own rules for the purposes of protecting itself and its accredited CBs. On two occasions, Oxebridge attempted to have Oxebridge witness ISO 9001 audits by registrars Platinum Registrations and NSF-ISR, in order to ensure a fair audit; in both cases, ANAB refused, despite there being no rule against it. The US Dept. of Defense later audited one of those clients and found dozens of nonconformities not cited by the registrar, the exact scenario Oxebridge had attempted to prevent.
The suit will test whether ANAB’s self-created rules can stand up to actual laws, and marks a rare legal battle for ANAB. ANAB was sued by registrar Perry Johnson Registrars in 2003, when ANAB was known as RAB, over a conflict related to RAB’s suspension of PJR in the AS9100 scheme; that case was resolved out of court upon mutual agreement of the parties. The certificate mill American Global Systems’ owner Steven Keneally lost a lawsuit brought against it by ANAB’s previous incarnation, RAB, which alleged AGS had misused its logo, but ANAB lost its demand for damages, and the incident is said to have made ANAB litigation-averse ever since. ANAB has declined to pursue a defamation suit against another certificate mill operator, Daryl Guberman, who has published dozens, if not hundreds, of YouTube videos accusing ANAB of crimes and supporting terrorism.
Tsamota v ANAB is being tried in the US District Court Eastern District of Wisconsin under case number 17-cv-839. The case is set for jury trial in June 2018.