ISO Conflict of Interest - Duh... (This is New???)

Marc

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#1
As if this is breaking news....

Excuse my humour.... Yes - I know I'm a sick puppy! From the qs9000 list serve:

----------snippo----------

Date: Sun, 7 Mar 1999 13:22:29 -0500
From: DDILINK
Subject: ISO Conflict of Interest

A colleague sent this to me. Anyone have any further information? Thanks

Vince:

My partner just returned from Geneva and reports an interesting development within ISO. Seems that the close relationship between consultants and ISO certifiers is creating ethics problems.

NOTE: Gasp!

What seems to be happening in the US is that consultants are in a position to choose certifying agents and direct fees to them from a client company seeking ISO certification.

NOTE: Personally, I urge my clients to choose from several, and in fact I provide a 'rating sheet'. I tell them to choose and interview 3 to 5 firms. They usually interview 2 or 3 and get paper from a couple of others. Mebbe some of us have 'ethics'....

That company can pay anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 for a three year agreement with an ISO-approved registrar. Consultant's fees are additional and $100,000,000 to 150,000 for a small to medium size company is the norm.

This sets the stage for a quid pro quo. The consultant says to the certifying agent, "I'll throw business your way as long as you continue to certify my projects."

NOTE: Nawwwww. Consultants wouldn't do that! Actually we consultants tell registrars, "...send business my way and I'll recommend you as well!..."

The consultant benefits because he can be confident of delivering a certification at the conclusion of a project.

NOTE: Personally, I want CASH MONEY in addition to a successful registration audit!!!

The certifying agent benefits from the fees he receives plus he benefits from the consultant's ability to sell more projects as a result of a guaranteed certification approval. The client doesn't have a clue and often doesn't care because he's being forced by a big customer to become ISO certified. The Mafia never had a sweeter racket than this ISO deal.

NOTE: Yes they did - Vegas! BUT - Vegas is more fun!

There are a lot of ISO consultants and certifying agents in the market so the competition for business is intense. (As a friend of mine complained, it's reached the point where all the exhibit space at the automotive manufacturing and engineering convention in Detroit is taken up by ISO 9000 and QS-9000 consulting firms and certifying agents.) You can see how maintaining a steady source of revenues from consultants would be very tempting when all you have to do is certify their projects meet ISO standards (which are subject to wide interpretation anyway).

NOTE: Give me a break - it's not THAT 'simple'.

I hear ISO leadership in Geneva perceives this, and rightly so, as a major threat to the integrity of the certification process. They recognize the distinct possibility that ISO could be discredited, and they would be out of business.

Also, there is a plan in the works that would give the ISO committee control over who is assigned to conduct the audit and certifying process. This is intended to break up these cozy relationships.

NOTE: Good luck! At the same time, go ahead and stop illegal drug use....

Another idea is to conduct an "audit of audits" so to speak by sending their own people into previously certified companies to determine whether they really comply with ISO standards. This will give them a fairly quick read on the extent of corruption in the ISO system.

NOTE: Geeee. I thought registrar audits were already being audited periodically.

Some people, like myself, have been publicly questioning this practice and pointing out the conflict of interest and potential for collusion for years. Yet nobody at ISO in Geneva wanted to recognize it much less deal with it. So if it's true, this is a major step in the right direction. (Maybe the Olympics scandal has something to do with their interest.)

Stay tuned. Jim>>
Vincent Bozzone

------------------------------

Date: Sun, 7 Mar 1999 20:32:14 -0500
From: Virtuiso
Subject: Re: ISO Conflict of Interest

This is very disturbing (sic). Registrar's have tried almost every conceivable approach to making money from consulting and consultants regularly contract themselves to registrars for auditing.

NOTE: Imagine that! Trying to make money! Contracting ones self to a registrar, too! What WILL come next????

In working with registrars, I have yet to witness an audit where at least one of the auditors wasn't acting like a consultant to the client company in one way or another.

NOTE: That's a fine line of opinion, there Slick!

Also, almost every auditor has handed me a business card with his personal address and phone number and suggested that I contact him if I need help consulting.

NOTE: And what's the problem with one trying to sell him/herr self?

Are we never satisfied with what we are doing or are we all just greedy?

NOTE: We're all just greedy! We want 4 Wheel Drive SUVs!

I attribute the corruption to:

o Too many registrars vying for the same business

NOTE: Duh.

o Registrars compromising their ethics to keep fickle clients

[NOTE: Even UL does this now.... However, add Big Company Contracts...

o The acceptance by registrars of other registrar's certifications to steel clients
o The lack of certification of consultants leading to a wide range of competency

NOTE: Hi! This is Marc, here. I dispute this line item on the grounds that the competency of a consultant has not a **** thing to do with registrars screwing up as this post talks about. I point this out because it appears to have become part of everyone's laundry list of complaints regardless of whether it has any bearing on the situation under discussion or not. Get over it - there are people in every profession who suck bananas and don't know what they're doing. We can't blame them for everything. That's a politicians' job - Let the politicians (and the news media, for that matter) point fingers whether deserved or not. (A close source tells us....)

o In the US, lack of effectiveness of RAB in setting standards and ethics

NOTE: We all know the RAB is an arm of the AIAG which is for the most part GM. AND - TR16949 will serve to confuse the issue. The issue is money to the RAB, ASQC, GM and the AIAG - No more, no less. If my memory serves me well (which it generally doesn't, I admit) the RAB and the IRCA are currently feuding, which should not surprise anyone.....

The separation of auditing and consulting is essential to the third-party registration system continuing. Corruption will kill off the entire industry.

NOTE: I doubt I would go THAT far... Republicans still get elected. Unions still flourish (Well, they're surely not dead!). Organized crime is not so dead as one might believe. Plumbers charge more per hour than a lot of consultants do. And as far as the Olympics go, the introduction of professional atheletes did more to actually ruin the games than corruption in the competition of where to actually hold the games.

Tom Taormina
Virginia City, Nevada

----------snippo----------

This could never happen here, eh folks? Whadda ya think?

[This message has been edited by Marc Smith (edited 03-11-99).]
 
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Roger Eastin

#2
Interesting post...actually, anyone stepping back and looking at certification process would see that it depends heavily on the INTEGRITY of the people in the process. Integrity is regarded as one of those qualities that is slipping away because it has times when it is not useful (translated: does not make money!!) Without getting too philosophical, the client/consultant /registrar loop can be as corrupt or as integritable as the values of the people involved. If this loop becomes too self-serving, the whole registration process will not survive (and it shouldn't, in this case).
 

Marc

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#3
Integrity is one aspect. When I started doing the ISO dance, AGA pretty much said "5 to 10 minors equils a major". I now see companies with 15 and more minors with no problem - send in your CAs. I believe a lot is in flux here. Is it a Major? Is it a Minor? When does the number of minors become a major? What about 20 minors spread on many areas? How about 20 minors in 1 or 2 areas or systems?
 

Marc

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#4
From: Brian Charles Kohn
Subject: RE: COMMENT: ISO Conflict of Interest /Scalies/Kohn

> From: Charley Scalies
> Subject: COMMENT: ISO Conflict of Interest /Scalies
> This was posted the TQM list.
> A colleague sent this to me. Anyone have any further information? Thanks

Can you say "urban legend?" This is surely how such animals get started. Here's my reply to this, from the first time that I saw it...

On 7 Mar 1999 00:00:24 GMT, DDILINK wrote:
>I received this from a colleague. Anyone have any further information?

Sorry to be so suspicious, but I suspect that this is a troll; that it is the fabrication of someone's imagination, perhaps Vince's or Jim's. I say this because of some of the references within ring totally false. However, respecting the fact that I don't have anything other than my intuition concerning my suspicions, I'll reply to this as if it was truth.

><<Vince
>My partner just returned from Geneva and reports an interesting development
>within ISO. Seems that the close relationship between consultants and ISO
>certifiers is creating ethics problems.

My understanding is that the ISO has absolutely no interest or concern about certification. They draft, approve and distribute standards. Period.

>What seems to be happening in the US is that consultants are in a position to
>choose certifying agents and direct fees to them from a client company seeking
>ISO certification.
[Description of potential conflict of interest continues...]

The reality of the situation is that there are so many consultants that the threat from any one to take business elsewhere isn't a big concern. It is just as likely that a different consultant is playing the same game with another registrar, and will "take his business" to the registrar the first consultant left. It all comes out in the wash.

I feel that there is far more potential for such a conflict of interest with respect to large companies imposing a quid pro quo on registrars in order to get the contract. Remember, even if a consultant is involved, the registrant still makes the final decision and pays the bills. For a large company, the pressure can be enormous.

However, the system has worked for over 10 years without such potential conflicts of interest being realized. I've found that accredited registrars tend to be a high-integrity group of folks, and even if there are a few loose screws, the major accreditation bodies (RAB, RvA, UKAS, JAS-ANZ, ... those are the only ones I have personal knowledge of), who are also a high-integrity group of folks, will keep the loose screws in line.

The accreditation system, which has operated for many years, operates solely to ensure the concern "Jim" expressed is never realized. Perhaps that note you intercepted was written in the early 1980s, before it was clear that the problem had been addressed.

Brian
 

Marc

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#5
I believe that Big Corporations do get quite special treatment. I recently saw an example in a UL registration and I have seen it in others.
 
D

Don Winton

#6
Seems that the close relationship between consultants and ISO certifiers is creating ethics problems.
Urban myth this is not.
The Mafia never had a sweeter racket than this ISO deal.
I am not sure I would go that far, but close. Registration has become a MONEY deal rather QUALITY (if it was ever) deal.
I believe that Big Corporations do get quite special treatment. I recently saw an example in a UL registration and I have seen it in others.
I do also. Though I have not seen it in action, as I know Marc has, I do believe that most larger organizations carry more weight than the smaller ones. Why? Because if the registrar believes that they are tuff, less business will be thrown their way.

Just MHO.

Regards,
Don
 
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