The International Accreditation Forum (IAF) has updated a crucial “Mandatory Document” ruleset, but left references to obsolete documents intact, ensuring the rules cannot be enforced.

Oxebridge reported to IAF in May that MD12 “Accreditation Assessment of Conformity Assessment Bodies with Activities in Multiple Countries” was overdue for an update, with the last version having been published in 2016. That document relies on key definitions and rules set forth in two other documents, ISO 17011 and IAF/ILAC A5, which are both obsolete.

The reference to obsolete definitions and documents has allowed accredited certification bodies to skirt rules prohibiting them from obtaining accreditation in a single office, and then marketing that accreditation in countries across teh world. The original rule was intended to ensure that a CB could only market its accreditation of the “foreign offices” were also included in the scope of accreditation, and subject to oversight audits by the accreditation body. More and more, however, CBs are paying only to have a small office in one country accredited, and then using the mark in dozens of countries where their offices were never even confirmed to exist, much less subject to an accreditation audit.

In June, the IAF released an updated version of MD12 but ignored Oxebridge’s request, and merely re-published the erroneous information, ensuring that the fraudulent practices will continue.

Both the old and new versions of MD12 point to a critical term (“key activities“) used in ISO 17011:2004, but which was dropped in the latest version of that standard, ISO 17011:2017. The MD 12 document continues to reference IAF/ILAC A5 which was withdrawn by IAF 2017.

The changes made to MD12 were, instead, limited to some minor wording changes and sentence restructuring.

The June 2023 version did fix one obsolete reference: where the older version referenced a document called IAF PR4, this was updated to refer to the newer IAF PL3 description of the group’s multilateral recognition agreement.

A representative of IAF reported to Oxebridge that they will take another look at MD12 for a possible fix, but to date no action has been taken.

Recently, Oxebridge discovered that the new IAF member accreditation body UAF accredited a single office of the Indian certification body Globus, which then marketed its accreditation in nearly 60 countries worldwide. Likewise, the Indian certification body SIS Certifications has partnerships with the Colombian certification body Future Builders, which performs audits in South America, but FB is not listed on SIS’ scope of accreditation. A representative of Future Builders in Colombia seemed legitimately confused as to why he could not offer certification anywhere in the world, on behalf of SIS, if they held accreditation only for their office in Delhi.

Ironically, the lax oversight is costing the IAF crucial revenue, since a CB need only pay for accreditation in one small office, instead of having to pay for accreditation at each international location.

With the growth of fake certificates worldwide, however, the IAF is under pressure to compete with the low-cost “certificate mills” that eschew accreditation entirely. This may be one reason the IAF leadership has been hesitant to enforce its rules and publish accurate information for the CB community.


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Why we report on these topics

Since 2000, Oxebridge has worked to improve ISO and related certification schemes by identifying problems and then proposing solutions. We report on issues affecting standards users because so few other news outlets do. Our belief is that in order to fix the problems in these schemes, we must first understand the nature and breadth of those problems. Our reporting aims to do just that. Elsewhere on the Oxebridge site you will find White Papers and other articles proposing ideas to correct these problems.