A complaint filed against ANAB and the registrar NQA has finally been acknowledged by the regional accreditation group Inter-American Accreditation Cooperation (IAAC), after months of inactivity.

The complaint was filed after NQA’s Director of Quality, Arlen Chapman, threatened a client for hiring Oxebridge to assist in closing nonconformities during a routine AS9100 audit. The findings were issued by an auditor who was later found to have been lying about his aerospace credentials, and Oxebridge argued many of the findings were invalid or written improperly. Chapman called the client and threatened “problems” if they continued using Oxebridge to assist in closing the findings. At the same time, a prior NQA auditor used for the client was listed on NQA’s “Consultant Registry,” making it appear that NQA was threatening the client for not selecting a consultant approved by them. Oxebridge argues this amounts to a violation of the conflict of interest clauses in ISO 17021-1, for which NQA is accredited. Those rules prohibit a CB from participating in conflicts of interest regarding “familiarity” with consultants, and from engaging in any actions against those that have filed complaints with it.

Oxebridge had filed a previous complaint against Chapman years earlier, when he ruled that NQA auditors could conduct AS9100 certification audits using unpublished draft copies of future versions of the standard. Chapman and NQA lost that argument, after ANAB ruled NQA could only audit using published, approved standards. It is thought that Chapman is now retaliating against Oxebridge for having lost the 2009 argument.

Nevertheless, NQA’s President Kevin Beard apparently conducted his own investigation and cleared his employee Chapman of any wrongdoing, despite the evidence and willingness of client witnesses to relay what happened.  Instead, Beard relied on the account of an ANAB witness auditor who was not present for the Chapman phone call.

This resulted in Oxebridge escalating the complaint to Lori Gillespie at ANAB, who then closed the complaint without any evidence or explanation.

NQA pays ANAB annual fees for accreditation, creating another conflict of interest which Oxebridge argues Gillespie fell victim to.

As a result, Oxebridge then escalated the issue to IAAC, per the IAF’s requirements that the complaint be handled by a regional body as a next step.  This was filed in October, but IAAC fell immediately silent for months.

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Today, IAAC finally acknowledged it was moving forward, having assigned Elias Rafoul of SCC (the accreditation body of Canada) and Sharonmae Shirley of JAANAC (the Jamaican accreditation body) as “members of the Working Group to review the complaint.

Oxebridge has low hopes for an objective resolution, despite the overwhelming evidence against ANAB and NQA, including multiple witnesses who overheard Chapman’s phone call on speakerphone. In particular, SCC and ANAB have had a close relationship for decades, and SCC is unlikely to side with any complaint filed against its colleague accreditation body.

If left to stand, the ruling would allow CB reps to threaten clients who do not use consultants listed on their “registry” of approved consultants, such as the one operated by NQA. This openly violates ISO 17021-1, but ANAB and other accreditation bodies have consistently shown little stomach for enforcing the rules, and often allow them to be willingly violated.

At the same time, a complaint against the individual auditor for falsifying his aerospace credentials has been escalated to the AAQG Registration Management Committee (RMC), but the RMC is refusing to take up or even acknowledge receipt of the complaint, setting up a potential legal battle with the oversight body. The RMC has published procedures indicating how complaints are to be processed, and is in violation of those procedures, and as a result the issue could be pursued under US laws governing deceptive trade practices.