BEE Accreditation still in Disarray
The dti and SANAS have decided that all existing verification agencies and those with pre-assessment letters will now also be able to produce certificates for the four sector codes that have been gazetted. The decision states that the intention is to streamline the process and no additional accreditation would be necessary, other than verification agencies must submit records on validation of methods used for calculating a score.
EconoBEE raised this issue in 2009 and again in January 2010 with SANAS and the dti hoping to solve it before it became a problem. The problem arose when the minister issued a notice stating that any BEE certificate issued after 1st February 2010 would only be valid if produced by an accredited verification agency.
However, despite the notice being issued in August 2009, SANAS had not succeeded in accrediting any agency to perform verifications for companies involved in the sectors that had their own sector code. This affected tourism, transport, construction and forestry. Since 1st February 2010 until now, those industries were unable to obtain a valid certificate.
Keith Levenstein, CEO of EconoBEE said “The decision by the dti was expected, but is a short term solution only. It was unacceptable that since 1st February 2010, those industries were in limbo. We are happy that the dti has at least issued a document outlining a proposed solution. However it dilutes the purpose of accrediting verification agencies if SANAS now agrees to award accreditation based on pre-existing documentation without fully interpreting the specific codes. There are no public guidelines on how to comply with certain aspect of the sector codes, and they are sufficiently different to the codes of good practice to demand that guidelines be issued. We further doubt that SANAS is following ISO 17011 properly in its streamlining process, as neither SANAS nor the dti has the right to override an ISO standard.
“We still see compliance and verification difficulties with many aspects of the sector codes. For example, the construction charter states that to earn points on enterprise development, companies must address at least three development areas per recipient. It does not fully explain how this is to be evaluated and because it is a judgmental issue we expect to see widely diverse standards of interpretation from verification agencies and analysts. To date analysts have had to prove their ability to verify and calculate scores. They now need extra skills to verify properly on sector codes. This will no doubt result in differing standards, which is the exact reason for agencies having to be accredited in the first place!
We still see a need for the minister to setup an office of adjudicator or ombudsman to help the BEE process. Had there been someone in the dti to deal with the issue when we raised it the four industries concerned, transport, construction, tourism and forestry would not have lost many months of BEE compliance.