Accreditation Board spreads its wings | The Daily Star
12:01 AM, June 22, 2014 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:53 AM, March 08, 2015

Accreditation Board spreads its wings

Accreditation Board spreads its wings

A consultant discusses how BAB helps cut accreditation costs

Ned Gravel
Ned Gravel

Bangladesh Accreditation Board (BAB) has started to receive more applications from local laboratories, inspection bodies and certification bodies, with 15 testing and calibrating laboratories already accredited.
Local and foreign companies after owning accreditation certificates from the statutory body are helping exporters have their products tested in line with international standards. As a result, their products are being rarely tested at foreign soils and they face minimum technical difficulties.
In 2006, the government established BAB with a mandate to upgrade the quality assurance infrastructure and conformity assessment procedures in Bangladesh, and enhance the recognition and acceptance of products and services in international, regional and domestic markets.
As of June this year, the board has awarded 15 accreditations to 18 laboratories with another 30 applications from laboratories, inspection bodies and certification bodies in process, said Ned Gravel, a consultant of BAB.
“Most companies that have been certified by BAB have never been accredited before. International standards itself impose specific quality assurance and quality control on technical discipline,” he told The Daily Star in an interview on Saturday.
“They now have discipline in their laboratories that makes their tests better and more precise.”
In December 2011, the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) hired Gravel, a French-Canadian living in Ottawa, to work for BAB as consultant under a European Union-funded project.
Since then, the 62-year-old has been training officials at BAB on how to write, understand, assess, accredit and make decision to help them acquire the knowledge to run an accreditation programme.
He said accreditation is one of the voluntary processes used around the world to formally recognise competence of a testing laboratory, calibration laboratory, inspection body, product certification body or even a clinical laboratory and hospital.
In short, BAB accredits organisations which test, calibrate or inspect goods meant for exports and for national regulations, said the lead evaluator of the Asia Pacific Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (APLAC).
Laboratories, inspection bodies and certifiers who maintain accreditation from International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) and/or International Accreditation Forum (IAF) benefit from thoroughly vetted accreditation processes.  
As signatories to these arrangements, the accreditation bodies deem each other equivalent. Trade barriers are reduced through efforts and activities of these arrangements because there is confidence created in the end-product.
Gravel said the results of testing, inspections and certifications produce both consumer and regulatory confidence in products moving between markets.  
Because of the stated and verified equivalency, it allows manufacturers to test a product once, rather than multiple times.
BAB also has awarded accreditation certificates to organisations that will work for local markets. For example, two organisations are working on testing water discharged by factories so that harmful materials do not cross permissible level.
“Here, BAB has accredited the organisations to ensure environmental regulations. It is more than exports because it ensures environmental regulations and takes care of health and safety concerns of the citizens,” the French-Canadian said.
“These testing results are accepted globally. That is the idea of accreditation. What happens here in Bangladesh exactly happens in Canada or France, the United States and Europe.”
Before BAB came into being, companies had no other option but to go to other nations to get accreditation.
“With the set up of BAB, it is saving time and money. Now you don't need to go to foreign companies to get the services. Manufacturers do not incur foreign expenses.”
Inspection and certification of export products costs only one-twentieth of what it would in Europe or North America.
Gravel said accreditation of laboratories, inspection bodies and certification bodies ultimately provides assurance to consumers and business. It builds trust, he said.
“Through the standardisation and regulatory process, coupled with accreditation, consumers and businesses are assured that they are purchasing a quality product that is safe.”
BAB has applied for signatory status of APLAC and ILAC.
“I think BAB is ready to get the signatory status. We will go to Mexico in a couple of weeks to attend the APLAC general assembly. We will see what the members of the APLAC decide.”
He said while BAB has enough manpower to do the things it has done, it will need more manpower as it grows.
“The manpower will come from organisations which have people with experience in inspection, certification, testing and calibration. BAB's technical manpower must come from that technical background.”
BAB is a successful example of private and public cooperation, where BAB manages the process and while outside assessors from universities, industries, public institutions and government agencies are brought in and trained and sent out to do assessment.
About 75 percent of the 120 assessors are from the private sectors.
BAB now runs on allocation from the industries ministry, but Gravel said it has the potential to make more than enough to meet its own financial commitments.
The board has also been able to finance one-third of its annual expenditure on its own, according to Md Abu Abdullah, director general of BAB.
BAB is now accrediting testing and calibrating laboratories. In future, it will expand to include inspection bodies, management system certification bodies, product certification bodies, medical laboratories and proficiency testing providers and certified reference materials producers.
“They can expand as they gain more experience,” said Gravel.
Apart from BAB, three accreditation bodies are working in Bangladesh, with two from India and one from the US.
“Their standards are exactly the same,” he said.
He also urged the government to make special rules for BAB so that its staff can make obligatory visits to other countries and allow their participation in international meetings that create trust for their APLAC and ILAC partners.
The commitments also include foreign travels to go to these meetings because people who approved them internationally want to see them twice a year. It is a requirement for recognition.
“They want to know their partners and see their partners running equivalent programmes. This means meeting them time to time and discussing the issues. This will be a challenge for them because of the government rules on travels.”
BAB will have to convince the ministry or the government to allow them leeway to participate in the obligatory international meetings. The government may make a set of exceptional rules for the organisation which represents the government of Bangladesh to these other nations.
In association with the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, BAB recently organised a seminar in the capital to mark the World Accreditation Day -- with an aim to raise awareness of the value that accreditation plays in providing confidence in the provision of energy.
At the seminar, BAB awarded four certificates to the Quality Assurance Laboratory of Nestlé Bangladesh Ltd, Fisheries Inspection and Quality Control Laboratory Chittagong, Fisheries and Quality Control Laboratory Khulna and Bureau Veritas Consumer Products Services (BD) Ltd Laboratory.

fazlur.rahman@thedailystar.net

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