I’m not sure whose feet to lay the blame on this one, so you can decide. IAF participant Grant Ramaley has — for the second time — been caught publishing entirely made-up information in his quest to promote IAF Certsearch, while at the same time, the editors of Quality Digest refuse to correct his incorrect reporting. And, of course, the IAF has chosen to remain silent, allowing Ramaley to lie on their behalf.

If you recall, back in 2021, Ramaley published an article on QD that falsely claimed IAF’s CertSearch database was “100% full” with all the world’s certification bodies having uploaded all the information on all certified companies. That was not even close to being true, but Ramaley refused to correct his reporting. When I challenged Dirk Dusharme and the editors at QD, they refused to pull the article. Instead, they compounded the error by adding an entirely false “correction” claiming that “a CB won’t be visible if the CB has not activated their CertSearch account,” implying that 100% of CB data was in CertSearch, but simply not “visible.”

No, that’s false. Plain and simple.

Worse, both Ramaley and the QD editors insisted that participation in IAF CertSearch was “mandatory.” In the comments, I repeatedly challenged them on this, since the claim was also untrue. None of them relented, however, with QD insisting the opposite.

In reality, IAF has struggled to get participation from its Accreditation Body members and, thus, their attendant CBs. The problem is well documented on the IAF’s own CertSearch FAQ page, making QD’s misreporting all the more unforgivable. That page has an entire, ongoing set of FAQ points on why CertSearch is currently not mandatory, and why IAF is struggling to make it so.

Ramaley Returns 

Now, in April of 2023, Ramaley has returned to the pages of QD to — again — falsely claim that IAF participation by CBs is “mandatory.” Ironically, this comes in an article he titled, “IAF CertSearch Team Identifies 20,000 Fake or Fraudulent ISO QMS Certs.” Here, Ramaley twice makes the patently false claim that IAF CertSearch is mandatory for CBs, first in the article’s tagline:

And he makes the claim again later in the text, while quietly backing off his 2021 lie that CertSearch was “100%” populated:

Although it isn’t fully populated (the database represents about 44% of all ISO QMS certificates included in the ISO Survey), it is now mandatory that accredited certification bodies upload them. Because of this requirement, this percentage is expected to increase significantly.

And, again, I have posted a comment correcting the claim, without QD doing anything about it.

Is IAF CertSearch Mandatory?

The answer is plainly, and flatly, no.

In reality, the IAF has no direct power over certification bodies (CBs) at all. The IAF members are Accreditation Bodies (ABs), who then are supposed to manage the CBs. But CBs are not members of IAF, and IAF has no control over them.

But CBs are the ones who need to enter data into CertSearch… not IAF’s member ABs. To do this, the IAF has tried to figure out ways to force the ABS to, then, force their CBs to participate. It hasn’t worked.

There are two clear ways that IAF could achieve this, but neither is palatable. First, IAF could push the matter onto ISO. Through its CASCO committee, ISO 17011 and ISO 17021-1 could be updated to require participation in CertSearch as a requirement for ABs and CBs respectively. The problem here is that ISO cannot make membership in anything a requirement in its standards, as that is a conflict of interest. So CASCO is a non-starter.

Therefore, the IAF could make it a mandatory requirement for any AB seeking IAF membership. In that scenario, IAF could update their membership agreement to demand that any AB must (a) obtain data from their CBs on certifications and then (b) upload that data on their behalf. Any CB who refuses would lose their accreditation, and any AB that refuses would lose IAF membership.

But the IAF is already losing its grasp on its members, so has to treat them with kid gloves. The IAF only changes the membership agreement with the full agreement of its members, allowing the inmates to run the asylum. And since the ABs have historically opposed CertSearch, they are not about to make it easy for IAF to impose it.

The IAF’s Plan

Wholly debunking Ramaley and QD’s claims, the IAF FAQ page, as I said, goes into detail on these struggles and discusses a “model” that would impose CertSearch on CBs through requirements flowed down to IAF member ABs. The information on the page is a bit contradictory — they impose requirements on ABs, but then seem to say they won’t require the ABs to have contracts with CBs enforcing the flowdowns, which makes no sense — but the page does clearly admit that, no, CertSearch participation is not mandatory at the present.

Have a look at this screenshot taken as of 5 August 2023:

Instead, IAF says that they will update a document called IAF ML4 to impose the CertSearch participation — somehow — on CBs. Since ML4 is a part of the IAF’s multilateral agreement, which is signed between the IAF and its AB members, it’s not clear how this would impose anything on CBs, who are not IAF members.

IAF Fails to Get Its Mandate

At the time that Ramaley wrote his piece on QD, in April of 2023, the ML4 had not been updated in nearly ten years. So his article contained entirely false information at that time. Things aged poorly in just the next two months.

In June of 2023 — after Ramaley’s article — ML4 was updated, but nothing related to CertSearch was added. It appears that IAF’s “model” for mandatory participation has so far failed to gain support from IAF members, and has been killed in the cradle.

You can grab a copy of ML4 here and see for yourself.

I’m reading between the lines here, and it seems that Nigel Johnson, the CEO of Quality Trade — the IT company that built both the IAF CertSearch database and UKAS’ clone, CertCheck — may either be giving Ramaley false information, or Ramaley is misinterpreting what Johnston is saying. I’ve written to Johnston asking him to correct Ramaley.

Ramaley claims to be the convenor for the “ISO 13485 Medical Device Group” for the IAF, which is apparently a thing? I was not aware the IAF even had “groups” such as this, but they continue to allow him to publish lies on their behalf, in order to promote the CertSearch database.

Again, though, it’s frustrating that the editors at QD are completely disinterested in publishing truth, and are willing to go so far out of the norm to publish what amounts to complete fiction in order to support the incumbent ISO players.

Postscript: I’m also looking into some liestimeline discrepancies” whereby the IAF claims it hired Johnston and Quality Trade after they had already been hired by UKAS to build its CertCheck database. In fact, CertCheck was launched after CertSearch, implying the opposite: that somehow UKAS was able to get the IAF CertSearch code from Quality Trade and use it for its own CertSearch website. If so, that raises questions about just how “fair” IAF membership is, if one AB can grab the entire CertSearch database and rebrand it for itself, while other IAF members cannot. If I was a UKAS competitor, I would be livid.

UPDATE 13 Sept 2023: Emails and messages sent to Ramaley, Quality Digest editor Dirk Dusharme, and Quality Trade’s Nigel Johnston have all gone unanswered. QD editors have not responded to comments in the article itself, either. It does appear that, at this point, the Quality Digest article is intentionally misleading, and those responsible are not taking any action to correct the falsehoods.

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.


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