An Italian high court has ruled, based on statements provided by the IAF Regional Body EA, that UKAS accreditations cannot be accepted for public tenders in that country as the UK is no longer part of the European Union.
The case came before the court when two companies were bidding on a government contract worth 6.7 million euros. the contract required bidding companies to hold ISO 14001 and ISO 27001 certifications. One company, SAVE, was removed from consideration after it lost points for having its ISO 27001 certificate issued by SOCOTEC, which holds accreditation by UKAS, and not the Italian national accreditation body, Accredia. SAVE appealed the decision to the Court of the Council of State, arguing that its ISO 27001 certification was equally valid. Had SAVE not lost the points, it would have been awarded the contract.
The Court relied on testimony provided by the regional body EA (European co-operation for Accreditation), the IAF regional body for Europe. In a stunning admission that upends much of the IAF’s global marketing, EA was forced to admit that UKAS accreditations could not be seen as equivalent, post-Brexit. From the Court’s ruling:
On the merits of the appeal, for logical and preparatory reasons, the validity or otherwise of the second plea, which was also the subject of a specific preliminary investigation, is then assessed.
This is the specific question addressed to EA (European Accreditation): “whether the status of member of EA recognized to UKAS makes it comparable to national accreditation bodies pursuant to and for the purposes of regulation (EC) n. 765/2008 pursuant to art. 62 of Directive 2014/25/ EU of special sectors and in art. 87 of Legislative Decree no. 50/2016 and whether or not the quality certifications referred to can be considered validly recognized in the EU and usable in public tenders pursuant to the same regulation 765/2008”.
This is the response provided by the aforementioned European body with the aforementioned note of 30 January 2023:
“As regards the comparability of the status of member of the EA recognized to UKAS to the designation of national accreditation body (NAB) pursuant to and for the purposes of regulation (EC) n. 765/2008, the answer is NO.
The same answer also applies when considering the EA Multilateral Agreement (EA MLA) signed between UKAS and the other national accreditation bodies that are members of the EA.
As regards the possibility that quality certificates (or other attestations) issued by a UKAS accredited conformity
assessment body may be recognized as complying with Regulation (EC) No. 765/2008, the answer is NO.
The IAF scheme relies on the notion of “accredited once, recognized everywhere,” and has marketed itself as being a fully cross-border scheme. Its Multilateral Agreement (MLA) insists that nations’ accreditation bodies in one country must recognize the accreditations issued by ABs in other countries. The arrangement has run counter to EU law for decades, but has rarely been tested in court.
This means that UKAS accreditations may still be accepted for private tenders, between private companies, but it ousts UKAS entirely from contracts for government projects.
The Italian ruling is likely to have an immediate fallout effect in all of Europe, and UKAS will eventually be banned from government tenders in all 27 countries of the European Union.
UKAS, meanwhile, continues to claim on its website that membership in the IAF regional body EA suggests everything is business as usual
… EA revised its Articles of Association, initially to introduce the option of a transition period, which allowed UKAS to maintain its membership for a further 2 years from when the UK left the EU (i.e. until 31 January 2022). During this transition period, UKAS worked with EA to revise the EA membership criteria so that UKAS was able to remain an EA member. This revision was completed and came into effect at the end of 2021, with the new membership criteria included within the revised EA Articles of Association. This revision secured the long-term future of UKAS as a member of the European co-operation for Accreditation.
The IAF and its regional bodies have often taken a position that internal procedures and organizational “policies” somehow trump international law. The IAF continues to operate in noncompliance with EU sanctions against Russia, for example, believing that IAF policies enable it to act as a neutral nation, similar to Switzerland, and ignore such sanctions.
The benefit of the Italian court ruling is, ironically, the current Chair of the IAF, Emanuele Riva. Riva is also the top executive at Accredia, the Italian accreditation body, which now stands to absorb the accreditations issued by UKAS to government contractors.
Riva is under a criminal complaint for his personal refusal to honor EU sanctions against Russia, and for having signed off on a re-accreditation of the Russian certification body TEST in St. Petersburg as recently as January of this year.
[Marco Sergio assisted with this report.]