"ONAC has been the National Accreditation Body of Colombia since 2008. In that year, the nature of accreditation as a public administrative activity was eliminated and its technical nature was fully recognized."
The National Accreditation Agency is a corporation that belongs to the National Quality Subsystem – SICAL (Subsistema Nacional de la Calidad) –, is a privite, mixed and non-profit organization, which is constituted and organized under Colombian law, within the framework of the Colombian Civil Code, the rules on science and technology of Decree Law 393 of 1991 or the rules that modify, replace, or complement it, Article 96 of Law 489 of 1998 and the applicable international technical standards.
ONAC’s main purpose is to provide accreditation services to conformity assessment bodies in order to accredit their competence, to act as the monitoring authority for good laboratory practices of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and to perform the functions of the National Accreditation Body of Colombia.
The accreditation service opens opportunities for CABs and the producers they certify to demonstrate the quality of their products and services and even compete in international markets.
Given that ONAC’s work is evaluated by international peers, the certification of Colombian CABs is valid in multiple countries that are part of the international cooperation agreements to which ONAC is a party, agreements that are endorsed by peer evaluations, provided that accreditation bodies demonstrate compliance with the requirements of ISO/IEC 17011 “Conformity assessment. General requirements for accreditation bodies performing accreditation of conformity assessment bodies”.
In short, ONAC’s competencies constitute the provision of a public service of a commercial nature with a special legal regime that must be guaranteed by the State, regulated by international technical standards.
In consequence of the foregoing, this corporation must:
ONAC has the rights inherent to the nature of the contractual relationship with the Conformity Assessment Bodies – CABs, set forth in the service contract for the granting and use of the accreditation certificate, those contemplated in the Accreditation Service Rules, in the Political Constitution and in the law.
In Colombia, the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce – SIC – started accreditation activities in 1994. Between 1994 and 2009, SIC accredited 357 Conformity Assessment Bodies -CAB-, having obtained national recognition of their technical capacity. At the international level, it underwent two pre-evaluations by peers that evidenced the development of its technical capacity, but noted the structural conditions that affected its independence and autonomy that definitively hindered its international recognition as a national accreditation body.
Structural conditions derived from its status as a public entity which, on the other hand, did not allow SIC to react quickly to adapt its installed capacity to provide accreditation services to the rapid growth in demand since 2002. This circumstance led to an excessive extension of the time it took to advance an accreditation process and made it difficult, if not impossible, to carry out the follow-up evaluations to which accreditation is conditioned.
The National Economic and Social Policy Council (Consejo Nacional de Politica Economica y Social) issued document CONPES 3446 in 2006. It contains the guidelines for the development of a national policy that: i) reorganizes the institutional framework of the National System of Standardization, Certification and Metrology (SNNCM); ii) strengthens the activities of issuance of technical regulations, standardization, accreditation, designation, conformity assessment and metrology and; iii) enables international recognition of the National Quality Subsystem.
In this document a diagnosis was made in which, regarding the accreditation of conformity assessment bodies, the importance and urgency for Colombia to obtain international recognition of a national accreditation body is highlighted. The main difficulties of accreditation in the country are the lack of international recognition and the atomization and dispersion of the activity.
The second part of the CONPES document proposes a set of 8 strategies for the formation of the National Quality Subsystem – hereinafter SNCA -. One of them is the formation of the National Accreditation Body with international recognition, for which the following actions are proposed: “i) promote the creation of a national accreditation body as a non-profit institution, of a mixed nature, governed by private law and under the tutelage of the State. ii) obtain international recognition of the national accreditation body and ensure its participation in the corresponding international forums. iii) unify the accreditation requirements for conformity assessment bodies.”
Strategies for the conformation of the National Quality Subsystem – SICAL
- Institutional and regulatory adjustment
- Organization and coordination of the technical regulations
- Strengthening of standardization and effective participation in international participation forums
- Formation of the National Accreditation Body with international recognition
- Implementation of a policy for designation of conformity assessment bodies
- Conformation of the National Metrology Institute
- Strengthening of Legal Metrology
- Coordination of SNCA and the Mandatory System of Quality Assurance in Health Care of the MPS
Within the framework of the policies adopted in CONPES 3446, the National Accreditation Organization of Colombia – ONAC – was created through an act of incorporation registered at the Bogota Chamber of Commerce in November 2007, event attended by the founding members of the corporation, interested in promoting the accreditation service.
In December 2008, Decree 4738 designated ONAC as the National Accreditation Body, as the country’s option to obtain international recognition of accreditation, and indicated the functions that it must fulfill in that capacity.
As a national accreditation body, ONAC has the following responsibilities:
- To provide services under non-discriminatory conditions and to comply with other provisions on economic competition.
- Establish an internal procedure to declare impediments and abstain from acting when there is a conflict of interest.
- Process applications for accreditation in accordance with international technical standards.
- Permanently guarantee the suitability of the personnel involved in its activities.
- To accredit, after verification of compliance with the requirements, the conformity assessment agencies to operate in the National Quality Subsystem.
- Maintain a monitoring and surveillance program to demonstrate at any time that accredited bodies continue to comply with the conditions and requirements on which their accreditation was based.
- To provide the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism with the information requested on the exercise of the accreditation activity, without detriment to compliance with the principle of confidentiality.
- Ensure its international recognition through membership, participation, evaluation and other programmed actions in regional and international institutions and forums related to accreditation activities.
- To be the official source of information on accreditation in Colombia.
As an ESAL, the authority that oversees ONAC is the Mayor’s Office of Bogota.
Note: the means by which ONAC obtains financial support are set forth in the statutes.