Accreditation: Supporting the work of regulators

June 9 every year is World Accreditation Day. The day is celebrated worldwide with the aim of raising awareness on the importance of accreditation to industry, regulators, conformity assessment service providers, users of the accredited services and customers at large. World Accreditation Day (WAD) is a global initiative jointly established by the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) and the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) to raise awareness of the importance of accreditation related activities. The inaugural world accreditation day was celebrated in 2008.

The theme for this year is “Supporting the work of regulators”. Accreditation is the mechanism which ensures the quality and competence of the operating conformity assessment bodies which in turn help government regulators to have confidence on their decisions and safeguard the public.
   
We understand that societies use standards, technical regulations, metrology and conformity assessment to address issues of production, trade and health, consumer and environmental protection, security and quality as well as to manage risk and areas of market failure. The sound development and effective implementation of these elements is key for sustainable development, building welfare and facilitating trade.

With the increasing globalization of markets, international standards have become critical to the trading process and in ensuring a level playing field for exports and imports by meeting internationally recognized levels of performance and safety. The World Trade Organization Technical Barrier to Trade Agreement encourages the use of international standards where appropriate. Compliance with standards is verified through conformity assessment procedures such as testing, inspection and certification which offer assurance that products fulfill the requirements specified in standards and regulations.

Accreditation which is defined as a process by which an authoritative body gives formal recognition that an organization or person is competent to carry out specific tasks, involves the creation of confidence in the work carried out by conformity assessment bodies such as testing and calibration laboratories, certification and inspection bodies.

The demands of the global market are such that accreditation be internationally recognized hence the adage “Tested once and accepted everywhere”. Thus global acceptance of accreditation certificates is achieved by being signatory to the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) and the International Accreditation Forum (IAF) mutual recognition arrangements.

The South African Development Accreditation Services (SADCAS) is a regional accreditation body which has been established to provide accreditation services to SADC member states to support regional and international trade and also enhance the protection of consumers in the SADC region. In Tanzania, the accreditation process started from July 2005 and to date seven laboratories have gained accreditation status. The laboratories are:

a) TBS Metrology Laboratory
b) TBS Microbiology Laboratory
c) TBS Chemistry Laboratory
d) TBS Condom Testing Laboratory
e) National Fish Quality Control Laboratory (Nyegezi)
f) SGS Chemistry Laboratory
g) TIRDO Microbiology Laboratory

I understand that accreditation has been required for export purposes. In the regulatory sector, government authorities implement laws covering the approval of products/services for reasons of safety, health, environment protection or market fairness. Regulators have functioned largely as inspectors operating in the field and checking whether companies comply with legal requirements.

Here again global acceptance of accredited certificates is key in providing regulators with the confidence that products entering the market conform to specifications, meet legal and regulatory requirements and will therefore serve to protect public interests in general.

The accreditation agenda touches and draws stakeholders from the public and private sectors. This is an ideal combination expected to strengthen the linkages and cooperation in the area of accreditation and hence, enhance Tanzania’s efforts in meeting the demands of the global market by ensuring that products once tested and certified through Tanzanian conformity assessment systems are accepted everywhere.