Over the past three years, there has been a significant increase in demand for accreditation in inspection programmes services, such as those provided by conformity assessment bodies (CABs), across the country, says national accreditation body South African National Accreditation System (SANAS).
There are different types of CABs that can undertake conformity assessment techniques and activities. CABs can range from government agencies, national standards bodies, trade associations, consumer organisations, to private or publically owned companies. CABs act as the first, second or third party that is making the claim of conformity.
Where CABs act in a third-party capacity, an important feature is that they have to act in an impartial way so that the results of their work can be objective and maintain the highest degree of confidence.
“CABs need to be accredited to maintain confidence in the CABs’ results being impartial and accurate,” says SANAS accreditation executive Mpho Phaloane.
To make informed decisions, there needs to be a level of confidence that the results produced by CABs are accurate, reliable and impartial, says Phaloane. Therefore, using an accredited CAB helps to establish and assure this confidence.
“An accredited CAB has demonstrated that it has the required level of technical competence to perform specific tasks,” supporting regulators and regulations, maintains Phaloane. Accredited CABs also have management systems in place that are internationally recognised to support and maintain accreditation status, he adds.
In addition, government and regulators are constantly making decisions related to protecting the health and welfare of the public, protecting the environment, and developing new regulations and requirements. As such, CABs need to maintain their accreditation to keep up with new changes in testing, inspection and certification regulations.
Despite the necessity of accreditation and the benefits thereof, there are still significant challenges when it comes to accreditation in South Africa, laments Phaloane.
The first challenge is that new applicants do not have a proper understanding of accreditation requirements. “We regularly conduct free workshops and individual sessions for new applicants to explain these accreditation requirements,” he explains.
Another challenge is that there is sometimes resistance to accreditation, “as accreditation is ‘enforced’ through regulations”, and misconstrued to be a barrier to entry, he highlights. However, Phaloane points out that the regulations are often in place to protect the consumer and the company.
The third challenge constitutes the perceived cost of accreditation, which is perceived to be too high, especially by new potential applicants, despite the fact that SANAS’s accreditation is a nonprofit service, he claims.
Once companies are accredited, they have a competitive advantage because they benefit from their accredited status, he continues. “The perceived high cost is outweighed by the value derived from that status.”
Phaloane says accreditation “touches all facets of life”, including trade, healthcare, consumer protection, law enforcement, health and safety. “It is a service that is growing globally, and it provides trust.”