Recommended Considerations for Procurement of Consultancy Services and Conformity Assessment Services
There have been instances whereby companies’ procurement documents specify for both consultancy (e.g. training, pre-audit preparation) and conformity assessment services (e.g. audit and certification of quality management systems such as ISO 9001 and ISO 14001) to be provided by the same service provider. Such practices contravene international practices as there may be potential conflicts of interest, as consultants, having trained and advised a company, would be in a difficult position to not certify the company even if it does not meet the certification requirements.
Management of impartiality and ensuring objectivity of conformity assessment services are addressed in various international standards used by Conformity Assessment Bodies (CABs). In the area of management systems certifications, there are international requirements that specify that certification bodies shall not offer or provide management system consultancy, outsource audits to management system consultants or have linkages to management system consultants, as these pose potential conflict of interests that threatens the impartiality of the certification body in assessing the readiness of the agency for certification.
As a result, when procurement specifications require that a single service provider offers consultancy, training, management system auditing and certification services, accredited certification bodies that abide by international requirements are unable to bid for the tender because they cannot offer consultancy or have any direct influence with the consultants. Although calling one tender for both consultancy and certification services may appear more efficient, it may jeopardise the appointed certification body’s accreditation status. This in turn means that the procurer’s certification may be deemed invalid.
The correct manner will be to specify consultancy and training services, and audit and certification services as two distinct scopes if both are to be covered in the same procurement request. Different service providers can bid for specific services. The procurer can also consider awarding the request in parts but the same service provider should preferably not be awarded for both parts for the reasons outlined above.