At this point, we probably shouldn’t be surprised at the lengths Graeme Drake and the Asian-Pacific Accreditation Cooperation (APAC) will go to in order to protect the accreditation bodies that APAC is tasked with overseeing. And yet, I’m still left gobsmacked.
In one week alone, Drake twice shirked APAC’s responsibilities, refusing to do the one thing that APAC exists to do, which is to oversee its member accreditation bodies and thus ensure the trust in resulting ISO certifications.
First, we escalated a complaint to APAC against the accreditation body UAF. That body has — for ten months — ignored a complaint regarding potentially fraudulent certification audits performed by registrar TNV. UAF cut off communication after the first few weeks, and then refused to provide any updates… for ten months. So the other day we escalated the issue to APAC, citing UAF for failing to comply with both ISO 17021 and its own procedures for complaints handling.
But rather than do his job, Drake simply threw it back to UAF, giving them more time to blow it off. Because ten months wasn’t, apparently, “sufficient” by Drake’s wholly made-up calculus.
Drake clearly made a phone call to his pals at UAF, because a few hours later they wrote — again, after nealry a year of silence — that the person responsible for handling the complaint quit a while back. (The fact that he was the son of the owner suggests that even the family members of UAF’s management don’t want to tie themselves to that ship.) But “the guy quit” isn’t a valid excuse, since ISO 17011 demands that accreditation bodies maintain sufficient staff to carry out their duties. If anything APAC should have added another violation to the docket. Instead, in order to protect UAF — which is not APAC’s job in the slightest –, Drake just punted.
In the second case, a few days after the UAF filing, we filed a major complaint against laboratory accreditation body A2LA, for colluding with its sister consulting firm, A2LA Workplace Training. During conversations with A2LA WPT, its CEO Tim Osborne claimed that the spinoff was blessed by APAC. So I reached out to APAC, asking them to confirm this. Here’s what Drake wrote back:
APAC notes your complaint to A2LA dated 27 July 2020. Please await their response.
Mr. Graeme Drake
Again, Drake and APAC ignored the question, and shrugged. Remember, I was asking for APAC to explain if they had approved the A2LA spinoff or not. This wasn’t a question for A2LA who had already claimed (likely falsely) that APAC had. I was trying to confirm this.
We can assume, then, that APAC never approved this deal, but was not about to put in writing any evidence that A2LA had lied, since A2LA pays Drake’s salary. Which up-ends the entire accreditation scheme oversight structure. APAC exists just to manage situations like this, where its bodies are engaging in bad behavior. They’re supposed to correct this, not help cover it up.
If that sounds like pure abdication of duties, I’m in agreement. I frankly think we’ve broken the line into full-on corruption and fraud. Each ISO certificate includes a portion of money submitted to the registrar which eventually goes up to the accreditation body and then to the regional body. Certs issued in India, Australia and the Middle East all have money flowing to APAC and, specifically, Drake’s salary.
If they take that money while claiming, publicly and to government officials, that it is intended for “X” and then they later do “Y” with it, that’s fraud. It’s illegal. The only question becomes just “how” illegal, and whether it’s worth anyone pursuing it in either court or through criminal prosecution.
Fortunately for the IAF and its regional bodies, most people feel it’s not worth it, so no one ever reports it. And the corruption continues.
Right now, the region under APAC’s control is awash with corruption in the ISO certification market. The overwhelming bulk of Oxebridge ISO Whistleblower reports deal with companies in those regions. In any other industry, Drake would have been called before the Board to answer why his region is the absolute worst in the world, or they would have skipped the part where they have him provide some mealy-mouthed explanation and just walked him out the door with his things in a box. But in the ISO universe, he remains nonplussed and unmussed. He’s likely getting raises every year.
So while it’s clear we can’t expect the IAF or its regional bodies like APAC to do their jobs, we can at least file complaints to have a firm, documented paper trail of their malfeasance and collusion. That’s important.
About Christopher Paris
Christopher Paris is the founder and VP Operations of Oxebridge. He has over 30 years' experience implementing ISO 9001 and AS9100 systems, and is a vocal advocate for the development and use of standards from the point of view of actual users. He is the author of Surviving ISO 9001 and Surviving AS9100. He reviews wines for the irreverent wine blog, Winepisser.