The United Arab Emirates certification body QRS has had its accreditation fully withdrawn after a series of high-level complaints alleging irregularities and conflicts of interest. Prior to that result, however, QRS attempted to scuttle an investigation by falsely claiming evidence submitted in a complaint had been “forged,” and QRS had the whistleblower arrested.
Oxebridge originally filed a complaint against QRS in 2020 when whistleblowers revealed that the company was working alongside a Qatar-based consulting firm, Al Tair Inspection Services. QRS initially ignored the complaint, and the accreditation body EIAC temporarily suspended its accreditation. Eventually, QRS responded by claiming it had severed ties with ATIS, and the matter was closed. EIAC restored QRS’ accreditation shortly afterward.
Two years later, however, a new whistleblower emerged with evidence that QRS never broke the relationship with ATIS at all. Instead, ATIS re-formed as Al Tair Quality Services (ATQS), and continued to sell consulting alongside audits provided by QRS. A new complaint was filed, and QRS again refused to acknowledge it formally. Instead, QRS claimed to EIAC that the documentation provided was “forged” and had the whistleblower — who had made himself known to QRS — arrested. That case is still unfolding in Emirates courts.
The move led Oxebridge to file a new, stronger complaint against EIAC itself, alleging corruption. Oxebridge believes the accreditation body knew that QRS had never cut ties with ATIS, as it would have uncovered the relationship during years of “witness auditing.” EIAC failed to respond to that complaint for months, forcing the matter to be escalated to an IAF regional body. The regional body also took no action.
Oxebridge then took the matter to Emirates ministers tasked with overseeing EIAC. The EIAC body is an official government agency, subject to ministerial oversight.
Now, however, EIAC has finally responded to Oxebridge by claiming that QRS was unable to provide any evidence of the forgery, and that EIAC will withdraw QRS’ accreditation permanently, effective on 29 April.
The government has not seen fit to intercede on the bogus criminal case filed by QRS, however. Despite having been proven correct, the whistleblower still faces jail.
In a separate case in United Arab Emirates, a representative of TUV SUD had reported conflicts of interest to the regional office in that country, and was fired. Combined, the two scandals paint a picture of the UAE government as largely corrupt, and willing to harass and pursue whistleblowers reporting problems in the ISO certification scheme.
UAE tries to paint itself as a modern, Westernized society, as the country shifts its focus from oil production to tourism and high finance. The government remains largely locked in a more traditional, third-world mentality, however, relying on graft and corruption to manage even daily operations.
Because ISO accreditation rules do not prohibit “AB shopping,” it is now likely that QRS will simply transition to another accreditation body with less oversight, and simply continue to provide ISO certifications.
UPDATE 1 May 2022: As per this new report, we now learn that QRS had already obtained a “backup” accreditation from the Saudi Arabian body GAC, as soon as the original complaint had been filed. As a result, EIAC’s de-accreditation of QRS is meaningless, and QRS can continue to sell certificates under the GAC banner instead. The IAF has no rules on stopping such practices, and has not stepped in to stop the transfer.