The hard work of developing Quality Infrastructure in the Caribbean is just starting to pay off.
That’s the view of quality expert, Mr. Pat Paladino, as he addressed a meeting of National Accreditation Focal Points (NAFP) officials from eight CARICOM countries in Barbados this week. The workshop is an initiative under the 10th EDF-TBT Programme, funded by the European Union and implemented by the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards & Quality (CROSQ), the German Metrology Institute (PTB) and the Dominican Institute for Quality (INDOCAL). It ends on Friday, February 17.
Mr. Paladino is one of the trainers at the workshop, which is led by Mrs. Claudette Brown – Accreditation consultant and trainer.
Mr. Paladino noted that the global market was moving ahead in areas requiring product tested by labs accredited by an accreditation body that is a signatory to international accreditation agreements. Failure to meet the international requirements could result in a close out for products of the Caribbean, he noted.
“Developed markets set the rules and they’ve embraced the international accreditation system. If the Caribbean can’t meet these rules, our businesses and exporters are not going to be able to do business in these markets. Also, if the region is unable to provide recognized accreditation and conformity assessment services, then businesses and manufacturers will have to look outside the region to be able to have their products tested.
“Typically, businesses would have to go to the US, Canada or Europe and the cost of testing in these countries is probably 10 or 20 times the cost of doing it here, if we had the capabilities. That’s pretty significant for these manufacturers,” he remarked.
The expert, who is a former President of the InterAmerican Accreditation Cooperation, the internationally recognised association of accreditation bodies in the Americas and other organisations interested in conformity assessment, said this was why the work of the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) and the National Standards Bodies (NSBs) of the region was so important to mitigating some of the international risks.
“All the hard work is finally starting to pay off. There was a slow start getting people on board, knowledgeable and trained, but today we have an accreditation body that is already recognised internationally. We are also seeing a number of labs, both in the medical and testing area, come forward and attain accreditation. So, we are taking small steps, but the question is, are we moving fast enough,” he said.
Governments, he pointed out, must be made to understand why these processes are so important to national and regional development. Standards development organisation must adopt or adapt international standards as national standards to support businesses and export.
Mrs Brown’s indicated that participants would be reviewing the requirements of the ISO/IEC 17025 standard. She pointed out that this standard was applicable to all laboratories and can be used by the NAFPs to assist these labs in the development of their management systems for quality, administrative and technical operations. She pointed out that the workshop would also be covering other supporting information, including the benefits of accreditation, the accreditation process and assessor attributes. The participants were encouraged to participate fully in the activities of the week in order to maximize the benefits.
CROSQ’s Technical Officer – Accreditation, Mr. Stephen Farquharson explained that the role of the NAFP was to assist Conformity Assessment Bodies (CABs) with their quest for international accreditation to meet the needs of businesses. He told the officials from Bahamas, Belize, Dominica, Guyana, Haiti, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis and Suriname that the week-long training would give them the basics needed to provide the necessary assistance to CABs, and especially laboratories.
With a primary focus on increasing exports out of The Bahamas, the Government there has just launched the newest standards organisation in the region – The Bahamas Bureau of Standards and Quality (BBSQ).
As the country rang in its 43rd anniversary of Independence, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Mr. Perry Christie, noted they indeed had a lot to celebrate, including the establishment of the bureau.
“As a Government, we hold that the formulation and maintenance of standards and quality by BBSQ is essential, not optional; it is a necessary and well-considered strategy. It is a primary plank in my government’s plan to expand national development through trade, primarily through increased exports of Bahamian goods and services and access into new markets. The Bureau is also important in terms of local consumer protection,” the Prime Minister noted in recognition of the achievement.
He further extolled: “The ultimate objective is to enhance the quality of life for the Bahamian people for the long term.”
His sentiments were echoed by the Minister of Financial Services and Local Government, Mrs. Hope Strachan, whose portfolio has primary responsibility for the bureau. She too noted the need for standards and a focus on quality in the Bahamian society.
“We are fully aware that transforming the culture in both the manufacturing and services sectors to comply with new internationally accepted national standards could possibly result in apprehension and skepticism from the business community and even the general public. I wish to advise, however, that these changes, once implemented will improve public confidence and create new opportunities for Bahamian and international investors and put our relationship with our trading partners on an even playing field,” she noted.
The Minister further invited stakeholders to join with Government as it made this vital step to take advantage of the opportunities to expand the Bahamian economy and global trade.
Both the Prime Minister and Minister, lauded the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) and other agencies for the role in helping the BBSQ’s establishment, including training, financial and technical assistance.
Chairman of CROSQ, Mr. Jose Trejo hailed the launch as a momentous occasion for the Bahamas as well as the region as a whole.
“The institutionalization of the Bahamas Bureau of Standards and Quality is a declaration that the Government of the Bahamas recognises the need to install the requisite infrastructure to support and promote a culture for quality; but more so, it is a reflection of the government’s commitment to ensure, above all, the health and safety of its peoples and its environment. By extension, it underpins the socioeconomic importance that the Bahamas places on the development of trade in goods and services as it now openly seeks to embed quality infrastructure in its national development dynamics. This not only enhances the national effort, but also serves to draw us closer in our unrelenting regional endeavour at harmonizing our economies across a single space…
“Strategically, our mandate within CROSQ is to facilitate trade and competitiveness of CARICOM products and services for sustainable development through the implementation of a regional quality infrastructure. This we intend to achieve by offering support to the national bureaux of standards in the development of their own national quality infrastructures. With this in mind, over the past seven years, CROSQ has been working closely with the Bahamas having undertaken various onsite and offsite interventions. These interventions have led to the provision of equipment, training attachments, workshops and seminars, and meetings,” said the Chairman, adding that it was also significant that increasingly women were stepping into the roles of leadership in the development of the region’s quality infrastructure.
Director of the BBSQ, Dr. Renae Ferguson-Bufford added her voice of thanks to the Government of The Bahamas, as well as the various agencies and programmes that allowed them to reach this point.
“The Bahamas has long been known as a stable economy within the Caribbean; but to advance further towards globalization, we must turn our attention to the building blocks of a sustainable and viable quality infrastructure. This means developing national standards based on international requirements, developing a metrology regime to ensure free and fair trade of goods and services, and building conformity assessment services which include testing, market surveillance, certification and accreditation of our laboratories and other systems of operations.
“We cannot afford to be left behind in terms of global markets access, industry competitiveness, innovation, further development and growth of this country's main economic sectors of tourism and financial services; and in the areas of agriculture, public and environmental healthcare, and the list goes on and on. We believe our strategic plan is properly aligned to the national development plan and Vision 2040 of the Government,” said Dr. Bufford.
The CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) is on a thrust to make quality a way of life in the region.
CEO of CROSQ, Mr. Deryck Omar made this clear as he addressed media yesterday during a break at a forum of directors of standards bureaux in CARICOM. Remarking on the challenges identified by some directors in the development of standards, the CEO remarked that this was one of the reasons behind the current drafting of a Regional Quality Policy for CARICOM.
“At the regional level the 15 CEOs of the Bureaux of Standards have gotten together and we are basically writing a regional constitutional document on what quality consciousness is all about and how to foster and promote a quality culture in the Caribbean region. We have that document in draft form and we are currently developing that and once we get that approved we would want to distribute that widely through the region, and that will be a Regional Quality Policy approved by policymakers as to what we believe quality is,” he said at the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) CEO Forum being held at Courtyard by Marriott in Barbados from July 4 to 6, 2016.
He noted this was one of the ways to address the challenges bureaux experienced with engaging stakeholders. In relation to engagement with industry to increase the uptake and use of standards, the CEO explained that CROSQ was supporting each of the 15 bureaux within CARICOM to develop and improve their awareness, marketing and communications with stakeholders.
“Being scientists we love standards development, we love testing, measurement infrastructure, but when it comes to engaging with people and society and those softer issues, that is a new talent we are helping the bureaux to bring into their core as to how to develop marketing and communication plans, how to reach out to [the media] the help us spread the message of standards and the use of it,” he added.
Finally, he stated that the attraction and retention of staff, as well as financing were issues bureaux indicated challenges with and which CROSQ as a network of bureaux of standards was trying to assist. “At the regional level we look for a lot of donor funded projects that can support Member States to invest in resources, be they people, be they tools, be they equipment or even work methods and then what we do is develop frameworks that helps these bureaux to share these resources across the region.”
The ISO-sponsored forum is being facilitated by ISO Acting Secretary General, Mr. Kevin McKinley, who said the intent was to maximise the shared knowledge and connect the Caribbean more fully with the world and influence the standards process.
“There is a huge gap, a huge opportunity, that exists right now. We cannot run a region, a country, only by mandatory rules, only by laws. You need organised market forces that compliment public policy objectives. International standards are set up in a way that involves the key countries and the key countries include the Caribbean in a lot of areas that are of priority to this region.
“So how do you get to the table on subjects that make most sense and influence the standards that are going to have the most impact on how global new public policy related to climate change, related to the environment, energy efficiency . . . These policies are coming out at a global level and you need tools to implement them at a national level and a company level.”
Mr. McKinley acknowledged that not all members were equal in their level of development, but noted this forum was intended to take the best practices from each and help each other implement.
The forum, sponsored by ISO, is hosted by the Barbados National Standards Institution, and facilitated as well by CROSQ.
If the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards & Quality (CROSQ) is to press ahead to aid the development of quality goods and services across the region that trade and compete internationally, regional governments and businesses need to play their part.
That was the view of accreditation expert, Mr. Pat Paladino, as he addressed a symposium to mark World Accreditation Day in Guyana this week.
Mr. Paladino, addressing an audience that included Minister of Business, Mr. Dominic Gaskin, regional leaders in quality infrastructure development, as well as regulators and private sector business leaders, acknowledged the role that the two major accreditations in Guyana; one in Jamaica and one in Grenada utilising CROSQ’s Caribbean Cooperation for Accreditation (CCA) Scheme, had played in pushing quality to the forefront of discussion.
He also highlighted the Caribbean Network of Conformity Assessment Bodies (CANCAB) another programme created by CROSQ to assist the development of the region’s conformity assessment bodies, namely the inspection, testing and certification entities within both the private and public sector.
Additionally, said the international accreditation expert, the National Standards Bodies of Belize, Suriname and Jamaica, had all been certified to the ISO 9001 quality management system, with the assistance of CROSQ, but all this work was only the start of what was needed in the region.
“The CARICOM and CARIFORUM Regions have much more to do to be able to ensure that all quality and quality-related services are available within the regions. There are many more standards to adopt or adapt and many more conformity assessment bodies to accredit. There is a need for the development of capabilities within the NABs for product, services and personnel certification bodies and inspection bodies.
“It is also necessary to obtain international recognition of the National Accreditation Bodies for certification and inspection bodies. Each one is a formidable task, but I have confidence that the organizations are up for the task,” said the accreditation consultant.
“All this work and the achievements will go to waste if there is no uptake by government or business. That is the policies and programmes developed must be embraced and put to use. Regional standards that are harmonized internationally must be adopted at the national level. National regulations must start to reference the use of these standards and address qualification of organizations to the international standards.
“The time is now to show such commitments. Without your commitment it will become extremely difficult for Caribbean organizations to be competitive in international and regional markets,” he added, congratulating the Guyana National Bureau of Standards (GNBS) on the tremendous work it had done in the country thus far.
Head of Conformity Assessment at the Bureau, Mrs. Candelle Walcott-Bostwick noted the high demand in the country for quality management services and accreditation services, since the recent accreditations of the Guyana Rice Development Board’s Central Laboratory and the Eureka Medical Laboratories Inc. in Georgetown, with the assistance of the bureau, CROSQ and funding partners.
Likewise, Technical Officer for Accreditation with CROSQ, Mr. Stephen Farquharson, made a call for labs wanting to move to accreditation status to contact the local focal point at the GNBS to access the services CROSQ could provide to begin the process.
He noted that CCA Scheme and the CANCAB mechanism were both created under the European Union’s 10th European Development Fund Technical Barriers to Trade Programme, and additional funding partners like the Caribbean Development Bank, the UK Department for International Development, as well as the Centres for Disease Control under various programmes, had enabled the assistance to be provided to the labs and bureaux that had received certification or accreditation. This assistance, he noted, was available to others seeking it.
Furthermore, like Mr. Paladino, he underscored the importance of the focus on quality to breaking barriers and opening new markets for products and services for the countries of CARICOM and CARIFORUM, and protecting the general welfare, health and safety of consumers and the environment.
The CROSQ officer noted that the organisation was in the process of cooperating and collaborating on a common regional quality policy and strategy of development that was needed in the region and for which close public and private sector linkages with the bureaux of standards would be needed.
A high level Caribbean Conformity Assessment Week - “Advancing Caribbean Trade through Quality Assurance” - will kick off in Trinidad and Tobago on Monday, November 2, 2015, with representatives from most of the CARIFORUM States in attendance.
The week, being funded by the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Programme, which is managed in the Caribbean by the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ), the Dominican Republic’s Institute for Quality (INDOCAL) and the German Metrology Institute (PTB),is also being held in collaboration with the Trinidad and Tobago Bureau of Standards (TTBS). The week, which runs until November 6, will comprise three important meetings for this region under the theme “Advancing Caribbean Trade through Quality Assurance”.
The first event is the inaugural meeting of the CROSQ - Caribbean Network of Conformity Assessment Bodies (CANCAB) Committee.
The newly formed Committee was established with the responsibility to develop the regional conformity assessment (quality assurance) infrastructure as it relates to testing, inspection, certification and market surveillance. This meeting will provide the definition, scope and goals of the CANCAB Committee, along with developing the strategic framework of the regional conformity assessment infrastructure.
Additionally, the week will include an Organization of American States (OAS) FEMCIDI Programme sponsored regional workshop entitled “Conformity Assessment in National Processes – Building Regional Competence in the Disciplines of Conformity Assessment”. The workshop will bring together both private and public sector, including regulators and business support institutions, to introduce participants to the national, regional and international considerations for the preparation and application of conformity assessment.
The week will end on Friday, with the 3rd Meeting of the Technical Implementation Group for Conformity Assessment, which will conduct an assessment of the objectives and results for conformity assessment within the 10th EDF TBT Programme, and then plan activities and objectives for the upcoming year towards the end of the project in 2017.
Caribbean Conformity Assessment Week 2015 represents a major milestone for the development of quality infrastructure within the region, as efforts are made to advance Caribbean trade through quality assurance. The formation of the CANCAB Committee, which comprises representatives from both the private and public sector, represents one of the more important achievements thus far.
The second national dialogue on quality infrastructure (QI) came off in Antigua last month, providing the Antigua and Barbuda Bureau of Standards (ABBS) and local officials with a clear picture of the state of the agriculture sector as relates quality and standards.
Held at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium on November 13, 2014, Director of the ABBS, Mrs. Dianne Lalla-Rodrigues, welcomed participants to the forum, while Officer-in-Charge of the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality, Russell Frankly, gave a brief overview of the organisation’s role as facilitators, and its relationship with the German Metrology Institute (PTB), which is the sponsor of the RQI 4 and 10th EDF Technical Barriers to Trade projects.
Mr. Franklyn outlined the importance of the quality infrastructure dialogue, as well as the role of agriculture in the region’s survival. He highlighted that in Antigua trade in agricultural goods was 2% - the lowest in the region, and that 62% of that country’s GDP was made up by services. Notwithstanding, there is potential for agriculture and agro-processed goods, he stated, adding that the quality of goods was preventing the region from getting into certain markets.
The acting head of CROSQ also indicated that Quality Infrastructure consultations would be held throughout the region with the intention of creating an action plan to address the region’s QI issues. The first consultation was held in Bahamas in October.
The Director of Agriculture, Mr. Jedidiah Maxime stressed that quality and standards are used to meet buyer requirements in countries where economies rely on exports. Antigua and Barbuda is a net importer and traditionally has not place much importance on standards. However, the changing global dynamics has resulted in the country becoming an exporter in tourism-related areas, he pointed out.
Mr. Maxime added that quality and standards must not only be an issue of exports but national pride. He noted that a food production policy has been adopted by the Antigua and Barbuda government and an action plan is being developed to implement the policy.
Additionally, the Director indicated that the Ministry of Agriculture is collaborating with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to look into setting up a national commission for sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) areas. One objective of this is to champion issues relating to SPS which have to be adhered to. Issues, particularly those at the level of production, including record keeping, food safety issues and the adaptation of farmers to Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), were identified as critical.
Senator Collin James, Parliamentary Secretary for Trade, Commerce and Industry and Sports, highlighted reasons for requirements in trade such as food safety, environment and health. He stated that there was a need for technical assistance to small countries in relation to technical barriers to trade and SPS in conformity, which was necessary to access markets.
QI allows a country to meet requirement of markets to build clients and consumer confidence, hence collaboration with PTB to strengthen QI institution, as well as the QI dialogue workshops which will increase awareness of the private sector in quality. A deliverable is the action plan to allow the bureau to be more responsive to the needs of its client.
The technical working session began with ‘Putting QI Dialogue Forum into Context’, where Ms. Julie-Ann Laudat gave the contextual framework within which the exercises will be completed. Antigua and Barbuda Food and Nutrition Security Policy focuses on increasing production and potential which will result in the potential to export increasing. As the potential to export increases, Antigua and Barbuda has to meet international Standards and Quality.
Ms Laudat also mentioned challenges which affect production – such as lack of trained staff, lack of lab facilities and the need for technical regulations and standards. Other breaks out sessions included the ‘Prioritization of the QI Services Needed to Meet the Needs of the Agricultural Sector’.