By: Rodolfo Gutierrez, Consumer Protection & Liaison Officer, Belize Bureau of Standards

A National Quality Infrastructure (NQI) would be incomplete without its important elements which include the fields of Metrology, Standardization, Testing, and Quality Management including Certification and Accreditation. For the purpose of this article, we will focus on accreditation and its benefits to private sector, consumers and regulators.

Accreditation is a process that allows a business or person to be seen as a knowledgeable body that can carry out a specific task. This approval is provided by a respected organization (Accreditation Body) that recognizes that such a business has the systems in place to continually provide reliable and quality services or products.

Belize has increased its awareness on Accreditation and both private and public sector are buying into this concept. Importers of products and local producers realize that the market has become competitive and demanding thus requires selling and producing quality items. This can only be achieved if production processes and operations use approved standards or requirements. Service providers are no exception. Organizations like public/private medical laboratories, hospital, clinics and testing facilities are venturing into accreditation as being certified would mean that test results and procedures are more credible and trustworthy. A company that is certified shows the public that it has proper quality systems with which it can perform more efficiently. The business keeps itself at the top level of service and provides a guaranteed source of income for employees not to mention a secured job.

So what does accreditation means for business? Certainly the bottom-line will improve as customers and consumers will patronize to a greater extent, a certified service provider. However, several businesses becoming accredited will present more purchasing choices and options for consumers hence cost of service will have to be competitive. Consumers will know that products are physically safer and that those businesses have their interest at heart. Consumers move to a high quality level service and can expect an assurance that service quality provided by businesses meets or exceeds international standards. A society now becomes open minded to this change and the confidence in public purchasing increases.

This makes the job of the government or regulator easier. Regulators use accreditation as a way to reduce the uncertainties associated with regulatory decisions that affect the protection of human health and the environment. By businesses engaging in accredited certification will show governments that both private and public sector are following set standards and requirements. While governments and regulators may be busy setting overall policy requirements or detailed technical requirements, they can in turn depend on the accredited certification bodies in the private sector to monitor and evaluate compliance on their behalf. In this way, there will not be a need for regulators to have its own audit personnel thus eliminating duplication of audits.