The European cooperation for Accreditation (EA) has thrown out a petition for appeal related to a complaint filed against the ISO registrar Quality Austria and its accreditation body, Akkreditierung Austria. The dismissal represents the latest move by IAF-related accreditation bodies to quash a complaint made by Oxebridge, alleging bribery of officials from AA and Quality Austria by staffers in Qatar.

An original complaint filed with Quality Austria alleged multiple violations by the registrar through its Quality Austria Gulf office in Qatar, which hires employees who simultaneously work for the consulting firm Qatar Quality Plus. Oxebridge provided evidence of dozens of companies that received certification from Quality Austria after having received consulting from Qatar Quality Plus, often by the same individuals. Quality Austria dismissed the complaint without explanation or evidence.

Oxebridge then escalated the issue to Akkreditierung Austria, providing additional evidence as new photographs, documents and other information came forth. The new evidence discovered that at least one Akkreditierung Austria auditor, Adolf “Adi” Kerbl, may have been bribed to overlook the Quality Austria conflicts in exchange for “five-star” vacation treatments, including safaris and spa trips for himself and an unknown “female companion.” Such bribery would be illegal under Austrian law, as well as the EU regulations which govern the actions of Akkreditierung Austria.

Akkreditierung Austria nevertheless dismissed the complaint, also providing no explanation or evidence.

Oxebridge then escalated the matter to EA, which oversees accreditation bodies who operate within Europe. EA tossed out the complaint, saying the issue had been resolved after a 2012 Akkreditierung Austria investigation of the relationship between Quality Austria and Qatar Quality Plus. EA then falsely claimed that Oxebridge had provided “no new evidence” of conflicts since 2012. In fact, Oxebridge had provided EA a list of clients who continue to be certified by Quality Austria as of 2020, each of which had received consulting by Qatar Quality Plus. The Oxebridge complaint included photographic evidence of Quality Austria’s Vice President, Eckehard Bauer, handing a certificate to a Qatar Quality Plus client, as well as photos of QQP staff providing training at an official Quality Austria event. EA did not address the evidence, nor provide any explanation for fact that it contradicted the claim that the issue had been solved in 2012.

Following official EA procedures, Oxebridge then made one final escalation, petitioning EA to convene a Task Force to investigate the complaint further. In that escalation, Oxebridge provided even more recent documents and photographs, showing the Quality Austria / QQP conflict remains in effect as of the current day. This included photos of Bauer with Ross and the Qatar Quality Plus consulting staff outside the pricey Tivoli hotel in the Doha Souq Waqif shopping district, where they reportedly were feted for dinner, as well as an office photo of a Quality Austria staffer with binders for Qatar Quality Plus “contracts” clearly marked in the background.

Nevertheless, EA has now responded formally, again denying the petition and falsely suggesting no new evidence had been provided.  Representative Martine Blum wrote:

The EA Executive Committee concludes that, in the absence of any new fact regarding the complaint against AA subject of this investigation, the complaint at EA level is closed.

Blum was named in the complaint, but nevertheless failed to recuse herself.

Since that filing, even more evidence has emerged. Oxebridge has since discovered that Bauer and Kerbl received a safari trip provided by Qatar International Tours and paid for by Linda Ross, the head of both Qatar Quality Plus and Quality Austria Gulf. The safari company had allegedly received consulting services provided by Ross herself, and then was granted ISO 9001 certification from Ross acting in her capacity for Quality Austria. The tour agency’s initial certification pre-dated the 2012 AA investigation, but was then recertified by Quality Austria to ISO 9001:2015, and holds that certification currently.

Witnesses have said that Ross would brag about using her “p-power” — a crass reference to female anatomy — to induce people to yield to her various deals.

None of the bodies involved have addressed Ross’ payments for the expenses related to a “female companion” for Akkreditierung Austria’s auditor Kerbl, which were alleged to have included at least one “spa treatment.” Such expenses would not be related to auditing activities, and thus likely be a form of illegal bribery.

With all avenues exhausted, Oxebridge is now free to raise the issue directly with the International Accreditation Forum, and its secretary Elva Nilsen. Nilsen has remained silent on the matter and not responded to any of the decisions thus far, even though a possible crime may have been committed by bodies utilizing the IAF logo.

The IAF and various regional accreditation bodies routinely work to defend the bodies they are tasked with overseeing; Oxebridge argues this arrangement invalidates trust in accredited certifications, and undermines global trade treaties.

 

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