Consistency in Verification

Original publish date – Mon, 22 Nov 2010 14:18:06 +0000, Keith

I think that consistency is one of the most important aspects of verification. The whole aim of verification is to give confidence to any company that their supplier’s scorecard is accurate.

One of the key paragraphs of the Verification Manual is the Purpose of Verification which states:

The overall aim of verifying is to give confidence to all parties that rely on upon the score set out in the verification certificate that the information on which the certificate is based has been tested for validity and accuracy

Verification is intended to reduce the risk of misstatement of individual scorecard elements to an acceptably low level, and to provide an assurance of the integrity of the information on which the Verification is based. An acceptably low level of risk is achieved if a reasonable person with sufficient knowledge of the Codes will be able to arrive at a similar conclusion based on the same set of information.

Unfortunately this is often not the case. Different verification agencies continue to differ by up to 20 points on the companies they verify. Each agency has a different interpretation of the codes – moreover they change their minds each year, and each verification analyst has his/her own interpretation. It is becoming a lottery as to what score any measured entity is going to achieve. The agencies unilaterally ignore directives from the dti, from SANAS, and even their own policies. The peole toblam must be SANAS and the dti. It is SANAS’ job to accredit agencies, and this has to entail giving direction as to how to go about the actual verification. In practice SANAS is more worried about issuing a non-conformance due to a mis-hanging certificate, or unlocked filing cabinet than in assuring consistency in the industry. Even when they are made aware of specific issues and queries, different SANAS analysts have different rules they want verification agencies to follow.

The dti hardly fares better: They do sometimes give interpretations, but don’t care to follow up on queries, probably because they are far too busy.

The third organisation, ABVA does no better. ABVA says they represent most verification agencies and even have a disciplinary process – in theory.

In the past weeks the minister has been complaining about fronting taking place in the industry. He is right to complain, but his own department is slow to react. One of the key fronting indicators occurs when different agencies award vastly different points. In the past weeks we have come across agencies that use the wrong scorecard or charter to verify. Not only is this inconsistent but is contributing to fronting. We have seen verification agencies award EME certificates to companies that have turnovers far exceeding R5 million.

In all cases, it guarantees that other agencies will NOT come to the same conclusion based on the same data. It guarantees that no one can have confidence in any certificate.

The whole aim of verification was to achieve consistency. It has not worked out this way.


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