(Extracted from the Observer dated May 6, 2014)
THE accreditation of the Bureau of Standards' Chemistry Laboratory to ISO/IEC 17025 — the international standards for testing labs — will allow Jamaica to exported tested foods to 69 countries across the world without hassle.
The lab last Wednesday received its certificate of accreditation from the Jamaica National Agency for Accreditation (JANAAC) at a ceremony held at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston.
Like JANAAC, the 69 countries to which Jamaica can now export foods are signatories to the Mutual Recognition Arrangement of the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation.
State minister in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams, who presented the certificate to the BSJ, hailed the accreditation of the chemistry lab as a "green light for exporters" and a milestone for Jamaica.
"The accreditation of this food testing facility is of conspicuous significance to the country as the BSJ certifies a number of food products for sale in the local and export market. This accreditation is therefore, a milestone for Jamaica," she said.
The state minister pointed out that with this accreditation, goods tested for export at the BSJ's laboratory will not be held in the ports of other countries to be rechecked. She noted that usually when goods are held in the ports of the importing country, there is a decrease in the confidence of potential buyers and time is wasted.
She further noted that with less hassle involved in the process of exporting foods, the country can look forward to earning more foreign exchange to reduce the national debt.
"I do think that when a laboratory is accredited by JANAAC, it saves time and valuable money; foreign exchange. We can export delicious foods, obtain foreign currency to pay our [Jamaica's] debt, and make us prosperous," she pointed out.
To achieve accreditation status, the BSJ's Chemistry lab was assessed by JANAAC against the international standard ISO/IEC 17025 dubbed the "General Requirements for the Competence of Testing and Calibration Laboratories".
This international accreditation standard describes not only the requirements for a lab's quality management system, but also defines the criteria for technical competence of the laboratory. The accreditation assessment evaluation of the BSJ's lab was done by a team of experienced assessors, led by Ian Emmanuel, lead assessor at JANAAC.
Chief executive officer of JANAAC, Marguerite Domville congratulated the the BSJ for its accomplishment while emphasising that the accreditation process was rigorous.
"Becoming an accredited laboratory is not a single activity, but a process that requires hard work. Through a series of evaluations, the lab being assessed needs to objectively prove to the accreditation body that it meets all the critical requirements of the international accreditation standard," she said.
"The laboratory that receives an accreditation certificate has survived this rigorous evaluation and so we award them JANAAC's accreditation certificate in recognition of their achievement. We congratulate this laboratory for achieving this milestone," said the CEO.
Chairman of the BSJ's Standards Council, Dr Winston Davidson stated that the development of the Jamaica National Quality Infrastructure is important and the accreditation of the BSJ's chemistry food testing lab will benefit the Jamaican economy.
"The accreditation provides assurance of analytic results and shows the capabilities of test results [generated by the BSJ] for foods exported. It enhances the achievement of Jamaican food manufactures across international boundaries, which shows a great level of confidence in results," he pointed out.
The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Jamaica (ICAJ) warned businesses to avoid charlatan chartered accountants that offer cheaper but materially inferior service.
The institute concurrently warns charlatans to desist or face sanctions.
"We are warning them to cease and any instance of such activity will be reported to the Public Accountancy Board, (PAB)" indicated ICAJ President Dennis Chung at the Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange held at the newspaper's head office in Kingston.
The institute in fact referred one individual to the PAB last year, which could result in prosecution.
The PAB, a statutory board of the Ministry of Finance, sets the technical requirements for registered public accountants but also investigates non-registered persons.
Bookeepers and accountants can act for small businesses and file taxes. However, a chartered accountant signs off on accounts, which institutions including banks view with certitude.
"In some [cases], accounts were substandard and other cases they were plain inaccuracies in the projections. You would appreciate that when someone is making a loan, the accuracy of the assumption will be very important and can impact the cashflow and impact the loan process and business itself," said Chung.
Earning a master's in accounting or attaining certification, including ACCA or CPA remains necessary but insufficient qualification to practise as a chartered accountant in Jamaica, said the ICAJ.
All chartered accountants must receive approval from the ICAJ.
The Monday Exchange also saw guest accountants including Rose Marie Heaven executive director at the ICAJ, Ann Marie Rhoden deputy Financial Secretary, Alok Jain partner at PWC auditors, Raymond Campbell partner at KPMG auditors and Nigel Chambers at KPMG.
"We are getting complaints from people who have had substandard accounts," Chung added.
Chung said that businesses only need to go online to check the list of chartered accountants which spans some 1,200. "Just check our roll call."
The ICAJ accepts about 70-80 new members annually. The applicant must gain approval from a panel and meet technical and ethical standards and pay a fee of roughly $20,000.
"We are always seeing new members but our greatest concern is not the income side but that the standards are upheld," he said.
The Institute of Chartered Accountants regulates the practice of Accountancy in Jamaica as well as the use of the Accountancy designations - CA and FCA. The ICAJ states that only members can use the designation Chartered Accountant ". The ICAJ indicates online that in order to qualify as a member in public practice the applicant must pass requisite exams and "serve under a practising Chartered Accountant continuously for two and a half years and be recommended by two members of the Institute".