Youngest Quality Infrastructure institution
Accreditation is the youngest type of institution of the Quality Infrastructure system. Accreditation refers to “…to the independent evaluation of conformity assessment bodies against recognised standards to carry out specific activities to ensure their impartiality and competence. Through the application of national and international standards, government, procurers and consumers can have confidence in the calibration and test results, inspection reports and certifications provided.” 
In the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), the World Trade Organization (WTO) encourages countries actively to recognise the results of other countries’ conformity assessments such as testing, examination, inspection, calibration, verification and certification. The contribution of accreditation bodies is to build confidence between trade partners. They provide “a passport to global trade”.
The origins of accreditation go back to the period after the Second World War. In 1947, the Australian National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) was founded to ensure that the manufacture of ammunition in Australia met high standards. NATA is therefore often referred to as the oldest National Accreditation Body, although this role was not formalised until 1988 through an MoU with the Australian government. In the 1960s and 1970s, also other countries established accreditation bodies. These countries convened in 1977 for a conference in Copenhagen, founding the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC). Since then, the international accreditation community has followed the slogan “Once tested, accepted everywhere”. With accreditation, test results are comparable and expensive, and multiple testing is avoided. Thus, the costs for conformity assessment are reduced. Today, accreditation bodies of around a hundred countries are internationally recognised.
Two international organisations are responsible for organising multilateral recognition of the accreditation of conformity assessment bodies:
- The International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) is the international organisation for accreditation bodies responsible for the accreditation of calibration laboratories, testing laboratories medical laboratories, inspection bodies, proficiency testing providers and reference material producers.
- The International Accreditation Forum, Inc. (IAF) is the world association of Conformity Assessment Accreditation Bodies in the fields of management systems, products, services, personnel and other similar programs of conformity assessment.
Both organisations are co-operating closely, and at the Joint General Assembly in Frankfurt/ Main in October 2019 they decided to merge. The result will be a worldwide uniform and more efficient system of conformity assessment.
The House of Accreditation
Our colleague and international accreditation expert, Manfred Kindler, has created the term and concept of the “House of Accreditation”. This house is based on four pillars (political support, administration, technical qualification, external relation) and is crowned with international recognition by ILAC and IAF. The thirty building blocks of the house are used as milestones for a roadmap for the development of a national accreditation system (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: Kindler’s House of Accreditation
Varying configurations of national accreditation systems
Many developing countries use Kindler’s 30 Milestones to build their accreditation systems and bring them to international recognition. International development cooperation and the accreditation bodies of more advanced countries support these processes.
Just as the houses in different world regions look different, so do the houses of accreditation. The size of the houses or the range of accreditation services offered depends strongly on local demand. In the beginning, potential customers must first be convinced of the benefits of accreditation. As long as the national accreditation body has no international or regional recognition, it is mainly dependent on the support of foreign advanced accreditation bodies. With the expansion of administrative and technical competence, the accreditation body of a developing country can increasingly offer its services independently.
Not always it is economically viable and feasible that a country establishes its own national accreditation body. Alternatives are bilateral cooperation or regional cooperation networks. The Southern African Development Community Accreditation Services (SADCAS) is one example: SADCAS is a not for profit company registered in the year 2005 Gaborone, Botswana. This multi-economy accreditation body provides accreditation services for thirteen countries, namely, Angola; Botswana; Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); Lesotho; Madagascar; Malawi; Mozambique; Namibia; Seychelles; Eswatini (Swaziland); Tanzania; Zambia; and Zimbabwe. Two other Southern African Development Community (SADC) Member States, South Africa and Mauritius, have their National Accreditation Bodies and support SADCAS with technical advice.
The Caribbean Cooperation for Accreditation (CCA) is another example of a regional accreditation network approach. Again, two countries, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, are more advanced and operate their own National Accreditation Bodies. The other thirteen Caribbean Community Member States of the, namely, Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname, have established National Accreditation Focal Points (NAFPs) which collaborate with the two NABs in the region.
In some larger countries – e.g. the United States of America, China, Russia, Thailand, South Korea and Vietnam – there are several accreditation bodies. This inevitably leads to confusion for customers. The European Union has, therefore decided to apply the principle of “one accreditation body per country” (Regulation 765/2008). The regulation promotes a uniformly, rigorous approach to accreditation across EU countries.
The House of Accreditation visualises the elements of functioning and internationally recognised accreditation system. The thirty milestones show a step-by-step approach to establish and expand a national accreditation body. The colours of the traffic light indicate the development status (red: work planned, but not yet started; yellow: work in progress, green: (almost) completed) of the respective accreditation body and the system can be easily seen and monitored.
Through the traffic light system, the development progress and existing gaps become visible (see Figure 2). The implementation of this roadmap coincides with the requirements of ISO/IEC 17011 and the recognition by regional and international accreditation organisations (ILAC and IAF).
Figure 2: Snapshot of a construction phase of an accreditation house
The concrete form of accreditation in each country must be adapted to local needs and possibilities. Many countries can benefit from the international accreditation system without having their own accreditation body. Cross-border and international cooperation offers many design options here.
Finally, it must be remembered that the environment of conformity assessment is continuously changing. Given that, a national accreditation system must be sufficiently flexible to be able to adjust continually. Therefore, the construction of the House of Accreditation should follow the principles of resilience and sustainability.
 Kellermann, M. (2019). Comprehensive Diagnostic Tool – Annex to the QI Toolkit. Chapter 5, Accreditation, Washington DC
 Naden, C. (2019). A passport to trade, ISO Website, (Retrieved 23/05/2020)
 NATA (2017). Celebrating 70 years, Sydney
 PTB (2007). The Roadmap to an Accreditation System – 30 Milestones for Developing Countries. Braunschweig
Feature picture by Ant Rozetsky on Unsplash
The benefits of accreditation cannot be understated across all sectors but especially as it relates to health and safety in the medical sector. However for the benefits to be realized fully its use has to be mandatory particularly in economies where their quality culture is not yet mature. One solution can be the use of accreditation only as the criteria for acceptance of the results of other countries Conformity Assessments or perhaps the use of the Quality Law mentioned in your previous discussion which would require the mandatory use of accreditation. In the absence of this the accreditation body will not be viable in the provision of its services.
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Thank you for your comments.
The state can promote the use of accreditation through its demand. In Costa Rica, for example, government agencies are obliged to use only accredited conformity assessment services. This requirement directly increases the demand for accreditation.
At the same time, the state must take care that the costs of conformity assessment remain affordable, especially for micro and small firms.
What an interesting history of accreditation and information about “the house of accreditation”. Is it possible to translate it into Spanish to share it on our website and social networks, obviously with the corresponding copyright?
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I am pleased that you, as the head of ONAC, one of the leading accreditation bodies in Latin America, find the article informative. I will gladly send you a Spanish language version which you can distribute through your networks.