As reported, the laboratory accreditation body A2LA spun off a consulting firm, called A2LA Workplace Training (“WPT”) in 2019. The spinoff company shares the same staff, office, logo, and marketing materials as that of A2LA, which Oxebridge alleges represents serious violations of ISO 17011. A2LA is a member of the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) which is supposed to mean it has been assessed as compliant to ISO 17011.
Oxebridge filed a formal complaint with A2LA on the matter, which you can download here.
In defense of the arrangement, A2LA WPT CEO Tim Osborne insisted the spinoff had been vetted and approved by various oversight bodies, writing:
It conforms to 17011. It has been evacuated by ILAC, APAC and IAAC.
But ILAC now disputes that claim, writing the following to Oxebridge (emphasis added):
Please also note that any changes to an accreditation body’s policies, process and procedures such as the one you have identified for A2LA are reviewed in detail as part of the regular scheduled re-evaluations of the accreditation bodies that are signatories to the regional MRA/MLAs and the ILAC MRA. These evaluations are carried out by the recognised Regional Cooperation Bodies and will therefore be addressed in detail as part of the peer evaluation of A2LA. Therefore the primary role of reviewing and approving arrangements such as those outlined in your correspondence does not lie directly with ILAC and accordingly, ILAC has not been involved in any review/approval process of the arrangementsoutlined in your emails at this time.
This would mean that the arrangement would have to have been reviewed by the Inter-American Accreditation Cooperation (IAAC) for North America, and the Asian-Pacific Accreditation Cooperation (APAC) for Asia and Australia.
Oxebridge has reached out to both organizations for details on whether or not they approved the A2LA deal as Osborne claimed. In the interim, however, a review of both Regional Bodies’ executive committees shows significant conflicts of interest.
For IAAC, their Executive Committee includes A2LA’s Robert Knake, acting in the capacity of “MLA Committee and MLA Group Vice-Chair.” The “MLA” refers to the multilateral agreement which A2LA must sign in order to be a member of both IAAC and ILAC, and which demands they comply with ISO 17011. Knake, meanwhile, holds positions in both A2LA (as its Accreditation Manager for Calibration) and A2LA WPT (as Instructor.) This means that one of the people directly engaged in the conflicted activities of A2LA — which Oxebridge argues violates ISO 17011 — is overseeing the execution of MLA for itself and other bodies as part of the oversight body IAAC.
Another A2LA staffer, Rob Miller, also sits on the IAAC Exec Committee, as “Peer Evaluators Management Subcommittee Vice-Chair,” a position which would oversee the evaluation of A2LA and other bodies for ISO 17011 compliance. Miller is simultaneously the General Manager for Accreditation Services for A2LA.
The situation is similar at APAC. That organization’s Executive Committee includes Trace McInturff, the Vice President of A2LA. McInturff also sits on the APAC “MRA Council” as its chair, also overseeing member compliance to ISO 17011, as well as the Chair of the “MRA Council Management Committee.”
Adam Gouker is the General Manager for A2LA, but sits on the APAC “Technical Committee 1” for “Laboratories, Inspection Bodies, Reference Material Producers and Proficiency Testing Providers.” Again, this role would have him oversee A2LA’s own activities.
Such conflicts of interest are rampant in the accreditation industry, and all but ensure that violations of accreditation rules, procedures, ethical guidelines, or even laws go unpunished by the various Regional Bodies and their international counterparts, ILAC and IAF. The pattern of conflicts arises because accreditation oversight organizations do not ensure their Boards and other decision-making committees remain free of conflicts of interest themselves. Rather than utilize independent and objective third-party experts to manage their activities, the bodies instead rely on executives from within the companies they are intended to oversee.
In a complaint filed against ANAB by Oxebridge, the IAAC dismissed the case without action or explanation. Multiple executives from ANAB simultaneously sit on IAAC’s Executive Committee.
The ISO Committee on Conformity Assessment (CASCO) has refused to weigh in on how ISO 17011’s gradual dilution of accreditation rules may have led to conflicts such as these. Sean MacCurtain, the CASCO Secretary, cited “procedures” for requesting clarifications on its standards, and requiring the questions to go through the appropriate ISO member body. For the US, this body would be ANSI, and specifically its internal “ICAC” committee. A review of members shows that Werner Schaefer — one of the “shared staff” between A2LA and A2LA WPT — was at one time on ICAC, but it is not clear if he remains on that committee.