World Accreditation Day is a joint initiative started in 2008 by the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) and the International Accreditation Forum (IAF), the two global accreditation networks that represent laboratories and inspection bodies; and certification bodies respectively. The motive behind World Accreditation Day is to promote the critical role that accreditation plays in international trade and to create awareness and understanding of how accreditation can assist regulators in fulfilling their mandates. Consequently, the theme of World Accreditation Day on 9 June 2011 is â€œSupporting the work of regulatorsâ€.
World Accreditation Day is also a celebration of the contribution that the network of accreditation bodies make, worldwide, to ensure that the services of certification and inspection bodies; and testing and calibration laboratories (collectively known as Conformity Assessment bodies or CABs) are delivered in a competent manner. Accreditation bodies form part of national and regional institutional infrastructures for ensuring the quality of products and services. These institutions are usually comprised of:
- Metrology Institutes;
- Standards Organizations
- Conformity Assessment Bodies; and
- Accreditation Bodies.
Ethiopia recently established these four autonomous institutes after disbanding the old Quality Standards Authority of Ethiopia (QSAE). The Ethiopian National Accreditation Office (ENAO) is the institute that has been mandated with the national accreditation function and it will be celebrating World Accreditation Day on the Thursday 9 June 2011 with a stakeholdersâ€™ seminar on the contribution that Accreditation makes in assisting world trade and, more specifically, in assisting Regulators performs their task which is the theme of the 2011 World Accreditation Day celebrations.
ENAO is currently actively implementing a transformation plan to establish itself as a fully operational Accreditation Body before the end of March 2012. Since its formal establishment by Proclamation No 195 of 2010, it has recruited 40 candidate part-time assessors who have started a rigorous training program which will last 6-9 months and which will culminate in on-site mentoring and evaluation of these candidate-assessors during assessments of conformity assessment bodies (CABs). The purpose of accreditation assessments is to ensure that the CABsâ€™ quality systems provide objective evidence of the performance of their services in a competent manner and that they comply with the relevant international requirements for proving competence. The key aspect of the accreditation is to prove the competency of the services provided by the CABs and by their staff.
Once operational ENAO will provide accreditation services, throughout Ethiopia, to those CABs that seek accreditation for either voluntary or mandatory reasons. Mandatory accreditation would only occur where a national regulator has deemed it necessary, for public health and/or safety reasons, that a specific sector of the conformity assessment industry would require regulation. More often than not, regulators rely on voluntary accreditation of CABs and make it a policy to rely on test, inspection or certification services from bodies that have been accredited. By so doing, the regulator has third-party recognition of the competency of the CABs providing the service and consequently can rely on the credibility of the results of the test, inspection or certification process. This reliance on existing infrastructures, more importantly on the infrastructures that typically constitute a National Quality Infrastructure (NQI), is the basis of a sound and economically effective trading system. Regulators may have, in the past, performed cursory inspections on CABs that provide test, inspection and certification services for the purposes of regulating certain products and services. Very often such inspections were performed using either arbitrary conformance requirements or were performed by inspectors who may, or may not, have had the required skills or attributes to prove compliance and certainly would not have had the training to prove competency. The main issue is that the objective of such regulatory inspections was not to prove competency but rather conformance to specific requirements that provided no proof of the credibility of the services provided. After all, this was not the main focus or mandate of a regulator. Therefore in recent years regulators, worldwide and more specifically in countries that have acceded to WTO requirements, rely heavily on third-party recognition of CABs by accreditation bodies. This effectively releases the regulator from a task for which it is neither mandated or equipped to do so and allows it to concentrate on its true mandate which is to evaluate the need for regulations which are necessary to protect the public for health, safety or environmental reasons and to enforce such regulations, with appropriate, sanctions when necessary, and in a manner which achieves its objectives without unduly impacting on trade. It is for this reason that ENAO now celebrates the role that it will very soon play in assisting the national regulators in Ethiopia in achieving their objective in a more effective and efficient way.
Ato Araya Fesseha, the newly appointed Director-General of ENAO, indicated his desire to establish a world-class accreditation body within a very short time. â€œWe have a very ambitious plan of action that started in February of this year and which has several milestones to be met leading up to the full operation of ENAO as an effective and recognized accreditation body. Iâ€™m happy to say that the response to our invitation for candidates to apply for assessor training was overwhelming with over 350 potential candidates, with very high levels of scientific and engineering qualifications and experience, applying for 40 positions in the training program. This is only the beginning though and we will be holding more training programs as ENAO progresses and as accreditation becomes firmly entrenched in Ethiopia.â€
ENAOâ€™s establishment is being assisted by the Engineering Capacity Building Program (ECBP) with the objective of ensuring that ENAOâ€™s operations will be benchmarked against international standards and that, once operational, ENAO will develop sufficient credibility to be recognized as a full member of the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) and of the International Accreditation Forum (IAF).
“Our contribution to the continued development of the national economy will accelerate rapidly in the near future, particularly as the need for accreditation becomes a national imperative for industry, government, and regulators. We are therefore extremely excited about celebrating World Accreditation Day 2011 and we look forward to many more in the future”, said Araya.