Following up on the recent complaint against the Indian CB SIS Certifications, which claims accreditations in dozens of countries not listed on their official scope of accreditation, we now see the problem isn’t isolated. QSCert, with its headquarters in Slovakia, holds accreditation by the Slovak National Accreditation Service (SNAS), but that accreditation only covers a single office in the city of Zvolen. Meanwhile, however, QSCert has operated a network of offices in 35 additional countries for years, while none of them are listed on the accreditation certificate. Making matters worse, each country operates a local QSCert website that brazenly claims SNAS and IAF accreditation status.
The image below (click to enlarge) shows the list of QSCert offices claimed to hold accreditation by SNAS. Even the map image — with those big red spots everywhere — should have been seen, at some point, by witness auditors of SNAS. We’re supposed to believe the Slovakian accreditors never saw that.
These are not simple rent-a-shops, either. Multiple websites from those countries show photos of actual offices, with real staff, working in them. Below is one photo showing a large number of people working in the Saudi office:
I’m told by one insider that it’s more likely the SNAS accreditation body simply doesn’t understand the ISO 17011 standard and IAF mandatory rules that apply to them. This is consistent with other accreditation bodies I’ve dealt with, such as Sri Lanka Accreditation Board (SLAB), RENAR (Romania), Accredia (Italy), and even the International Accreditation Service (in the US.)
So it could be incompetence, yes, or it could be outright fraud. We may never know the actual answer to that question, but it’s moot. The IAF structure — managed by its Regional Accreditation Groups — is supposed to ensure compliance. That’s their one job.
For SNAS, this means the IAF regional body EA (European Co-Operation for Accreditation), which oversees operations in Europe. SNAS is a signatory of EA, but EA is no bastion for credibility either. In fact, as of this writing, the EA website appears to suggest that SNAS’ membership has lapsed entirely, and they just never updated their listing. According to the official listing (below), SNAS is overdue for EA peer evaluation by a whopping 14 months:
(I’ve reached out to EA for an explanation on this issue.)
Making matters worse for the IAF itself, QSCert operates an office out of Russia, and that local site’s website (in Russian) openly claims SNAS and IAF accreditation. The problem there is that the IAF demanded that member bodies cease all accreditation operations in Russia, and QSCert (and SNAS) don’t seem to care much.
The question raised by the scandals involving QSCert and SIS Certification is whether CBs can get accredited in one country, and then carry that single-country accreditation over to every other country in the world. The rules say, clearly, “No.” The IAF has a mandatory document (MD 23) that lays out the rules for accrediting CBs that operate in multiple countries, and requires the CB to clearly notify the AB of every foreign office. The AB must then verify the activities of each foreign office — which can include physical audits at those locations — before putting them on an accreditation certificate. Only then is the CB allowed to market AB accreditation for the offices in the countries that are listed on the scope of accreditation.
Neither QSCert nor SIS is doing this, and so far, the IAF and its regional bodies are not policing the issue. Instead, they seem happy to collect the money from a CB for just one office, and let them market their accreditation however they like, since the alternative is that the CB will abandon accreditation entirely, and no one gets paid.
I’ve filed a formal complaint with SNAS, while also demanding the EA explain why it seems SNAS is overdue for its peer evaluation, and I have copied Elva Nilsen at the IAF on the matter. We will see what they say.
UPDATE 3 May 2023. To date, SNAS has still not responded, but I did get an email from QSCert’s Director, Marcel Šlúch. In the email, Šlúch claims the above report is “not truth,” and insists, “everything is audited by SNAS on regular basis.” Šlúch then provided a link to IAF MD 11, suggesting this is proof of some kind, but that document relates to audits conducted by CBs of clients with “integrated management systems” (meaning multiple ISO standards at once) and has nothing at all to do with issuing accredited certificates in countries not listed on a CB’s scope of accreditation.
Šlúch insists all his 35+ offices around the world have been audited by SNAS, but provided no proof. He invited me to a video call, but I declined since I want everything in writing. If he’s being truthful, then the problem lies with SNAS for not producing a proper accreditation document. But given the response, and Šlúch’s confusion over IAF MD 11, I suspect the problem remains valid.
Again, though, we need to wait for SNAS to respond.
UPDATE (half hour later): Mr. Šlúch attached MD11 by accident, he meant to attach MD12. He claims this exonerates QSCert, but we have already disputed that. I did uncover another problem, that lies at the feet of the IAF. The specific MD12 document is, itself, obsolete but has not been withdrawn. That document references an obsolete IAF/ILAC document (A5) as well as clauses from the obsolete 2004 version of ISO 17011. IAF MD12 has not been updated since 2016, which may be the reason for all the confusion. I have written to IAF demanding they update the document, which could clear all this up.
UPDATE 4 May 2023. Mr. Šlúch remains defiant and has now ordered Oxebridge to remove this article or face legal action. He continues to insist that QSCert’s foreign offices were audited, but has no explanation for why they are not included on the SNAS scope of accreditation. He has now twice threatened legal action.
And then here are YOU, which write public article without sufficient information. This subjective view could deeply harm our company. You are not judge nor official body. If you want to be correct and objective, write your comments regarding mistakes and confusion about mandatory documents to IAF. If you want to understand what are the rules of SNAS to create accreditation certificates, write to SNAS and ask them. Do not write to me, what is in 17011 standard. This is standard for accreditation bodies. We have to follow 17021-1.
I think that I spent enough time and energy to explain to you, that we do not break the rules. Based on this I strictly request you to immediately withdraw your article. Otherwise, I cannot believe in your honest and objective approach. If you will not withdraw it within 24 hours, I will start legal actions to protect our company. This is really last e-mail which I am sending to you.
The world can not work on self-nominated policemen and judges if we have created official institutions.
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.