ACCSQ was formed by the ASEAN Economic Ministers in 1992 to support the objectives of the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA). In 1993 ACCSQ created three Technical Working Groups. Due to the evolving needs of ASEAN member countries the three Technical Working Groups created in 1993 were restructured in 1999 into the following:

–       Working Group 1 (WG1): Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRAs)

–       Working Group 2 (WG2): Regulation and Accreditation

–       Working Group 3 (WG3): Standards and Conformity Assessment

–       Working Group 4 (WG4): Information

Current development necessitates further restructuring of some working groups including WG2. ACCSQ made this decision during its 19th meeting held in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on 26-27 March 2002. With this restructuring the ACCSQ working group are now as follows:

–       Working Group 1 (WG1): Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRAs)

–       Working Group 2 (WG2): Accreditation and Conformity Assessment

–       Working Group 3 (WG3): Standards and Technical Regulation

–       Working Group 4 (WG4): Information

Since the 19th ACCSQ Meeting, WG2 has conducted two working group meeting which were the 5th WG2 Meeting in Kuala Lumpur on 19-20 June 2002 and the 6th WG2 Meeting in Brunei Darussalam on 1-2 March 2003.

The outcomes of the 5th WG2 Meeting were basically to agree the revised Term of Reference of WG2 and WG2 Work Program as a consequence of the new task of the working group. Whereas during the 6th WG2 Meeting, members were reporting their current development on accreditation and conformity assessment in their respective countries as well as presenting project proposal as agreed during the 5th WG2 Meeting.

The main outcome from the 5th WG2 Meeting was the agreement among members to re-define scope of work due to the change on the working group name. WG2 used to be responsible for assisting ACCSQ in the development of regulation and accreditation. Since the 5th WG2 Meeting, the role of WG2 has been more focused into development of accreditation and conformity assessment technical infrastructure of member countries in line with applicable international standards and/or guidelines in order to achieve recognition by national/ regional/ international bodies.

Basically, the revised work program of WG2 cover mostly on institutional capacity building of the accreditation body as well as their accredited conformity assessment body (certification body). The programs and the progress on the implementation are as follows:

1.   Enhancing the capability of accreditation bodies in ASEAN member countries to achieve regional/ international recognition

In order to enhance the capability of accreditation bodies in ASEAN member countries, three main activities, among others, have been formulated. The first main activity is monitoring development made by regional/ international organization of accreditation bodies by focusing on International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC), International Accreditation Forum (IAF), Asia Pacific Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (APLAC) and Pacific Accreditation Cooperation (PAC). In this regard, Thailand is the lead country for PAC and IAF and Indonesia is for APLAC and ILAC. The lead countries are responsible to give presentation in every WG2 Meeting on the recent information agreed within those accreditation bodies organization.

The second main activity is reviewing status of accreditation system in member countries and developing a roadmap for regional/ international recognition of accreditation schemes. Accordingly, member countries are expected to inform in every working group meeting their current status on MRA/MLA achieved particularly in the frame of such organization.

As of March 2003, five accreditation bodies from five ASEAN member countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) have been the signatories of APLAC/ILAC MRA and four accreditation bodies from four ASEAN member countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand) have been the signatories of PAC/IAF MLA.

In addition, the third main activity is developing programs/projects for meeting identified needs. Two groups of project proposal on training/ workshop and attachment program (benchmarking) have been finalized.

Project proposal for training on ISO/IEC Guide 61 and 65 and training for EMS Accreditation Assessor have been prepared by Singapore. Whereas project proposal for workshop on proficiency testing has been jointly prepared by Malaysia and Indonesia. Meanwhile, Thailand has prepared project proposal for attachment amongst ASEAN member countries and more developed accreditation bodies such as from CER countries.

These project proposals will hopefully be commenced to its implementation soon after the approval on the identified source of budget.

2.       Enhancing the competence of conformity assessment bodies in ASEAN member countries to facilitate the implementation of mutual recognition of test reports and certifications

Program on strengthening the competence of conformity assessment bodies focuses on two main areas which are laboratory and certification body either for product or system. The ultimate goal of this program is indeed to achieve mutual confidence in conformity assessment system to facilitate an “easy trade” among ASEAN member countries.

It is already well understood that one important criteria in ensuring the competence of laboratory is by assessing their performance in proficiency testing. Many proficiency testing programs have been available either in regional or international scheme through APLAC and ILAC. However, WG2 thinks that proficiency testing program that covers the ASEAN region is also very important.

In accordance with this fact, Malaysia has volunteered to coordinate the coming ASEAN proficiency testing program for testing and calibration laboratories. Currently, survey on the area of proficiency testing has been being done to identify the common area preferred by member countries before executing the program.

In term of promoting the competence of product certification bodies, survey and seminar on related matters have been conducted. Another activity which is still being discussed is the possibility of having mutual recognition on product certification among ASEAN member countries through peer evaluation mechanism.

Meanwhile, building up certification network within ASEAN countries for not only product certification is also becoming one activity to execute this program besides conducting training for certification personnel.

3.       Assisting new member countries in accreditation and conformity assessment

It is a fact that the current status of standardization program in general, particularly in the area of accreditation and conformity assessment, among ASEAN member countries have not been at the same level. Some have been very much developed, but other members are still in the step of initiating their institution and technical infrastructure.

It is, therefore, WG2 sets a program on assisting in capacity building on accreditation and conformity assessment for Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar (CLM countries). One project proposal has been endorsed by ACCSQ for the training on ISO/IEC Guide 58 and ISO/IEC 17025 for CLM countries.

This project is led by the Philippines and hopefully this project is funded by ACCSQ dialogue partner.

2.       Monitoring the certification bodies within ASEAN

This program is created to obtain a general picture of certification body operating in respective ASEAN member countries with special attention to the ownership as well as their accreditation status.

To achieve the objective, a survey on situation of certification bodies in ASEAN has been conducted. The survey is mainly to obtain information on number of private-owned certification bodies and also their accreditation status from respective national accreditation bodies.

Furthermore, this also to seek information on how the regulatory body in the respective countries take benefit from accredited certification body by implementing mandatory accreditation of certification body for being appointed in their technical regulation.

Another issue relating to certification body is the foreign based certification bodies which are not accredited by national accreditation body. The issue becomes so important due to many reasons as follows:

–                many reports are expressing that they link with consultancy firm where certification and consultancy are offered as package;

–                audit man-days deviate significantly from ISO/IEC Guide 62 and the corresponding IAF Guidance;

–                using auditors without the demonstrated sector competence;

–                quality of audits questionable especially for ISO 9001:2000 certification; etc

In response to those situation, WG2, therefore, put a recommendation that all certification bodies in ASEAN, whether government-owned or commercial certification bodies must seek accreditation by the national accreditation body of the host country.

By Kukuh S Achmad