The Bahamas Bureau of Standards and Quality hosted a one day training session on the importance of accreditation and the fundamentals of internal auditing in collaboration with Jamaica’s National Agency for Accreditation (JANAAC). In attendance was Dr. Renae Bufford –Director; Dion Foulkes Minister of Labour and Ms. Sharonmae Shirley JANAAC’s CEO. Ms. Shirley who has over 20 years of auditing experience facilitated the training session for the relevant stakeholders in attendance. The training provided attendees with an overview of the importance of accreditation and outlined requirements of the International Organization of Standardization (ISO) 19011- Guidelines for auditing managements system.

Minister Foulkes opened the training session and he also brought remarks. He remarked that “Internal audits are a critical requirement of every management system. Even those participants from companies that do not currently have implemented quality management system should see the value of internal audits.”

Ms. Shirley stressed the importance of a National Quality infrastructure and gave valuable insight on auditing practices for Conformity Assessment bodies –bodies that offer services in testing, verifications, certifications and accreditation.

There were a number of public and private sector professionals in attendance, including representatives from Public Hospitals’ Authority, BAIC (Food Analysis Department), Min. of Works, the Registrar General’s Office, Min. of Tourism, Cocoa Cola, Min. of Financial Services, and Bahamas Royal Police Force’s forensic Unit & Aquapure.

CARICOM Regional Organization for Standards and Quality (CROSQ), in recognition of the strides made by The Bahamas Bureau Of Standards and Quality (BBSQ) since its inception, and the absolute dedication of its leadership, has appointed the director of BBSQ, Dr. Renae Bufford, as regional CROSQ Chair. Dr. Bufford has graciously accepted and is swift to acknowledge the hard work of the BBSQ staff, the Standards Board and all stakeholders who have worked tirelessly to assist with National Standards Development to advance national interests, facilitate trade and improve the quality of goods and services across The Bahamas.

“I pledge to continue the work of building our national quality infrastructure, which is based on many years of planning and the collaborative efforts of highly competent Bahamian consultants and partners such as CROSQ and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO),” stated Dr. Bufford.

The strategic plan for The Bahamas, 2016 – 2018, paves the way for BBSQ and provides a strategic agenda, which BBSQ will adhere to, while taking into account the policy direction of the Government and its national development and economic plan 2040. Going forward, there will be great focus on creating a culture of standards and quality as a major factor for the overall economic development of The Bahamas.

“We are honored by Dr. Bufford’s appointment and happy to see that BBSQ has achieved such recognition at the regional level,” remarked Ms. Pauline V. Curry, BBSQ Council Chair.

Dr. Bufford notes that her ultimate goal, as regional CROSQ Chair and Director of BBSQ, is to improve the quality of life for our region and expresses great appreciation for the support of CROSQ thus far in this effort.

The Standards Council of the Bahamas Bureau of Standards and Quality held its inaugural meeting at its new offices at Source River Centre, Bacardi Road, Thursday, May 28, 2015.  At the inaugural meeting the council finalized the name and logo of the Bahamas Bureau of Standards and Quality, formed sub-committees, and set its next meeting in two weeks.

Minister of Financial Services the Hon. Hope Strachan addressed the meeting, stating that while the country, by Acts of Parliament, officially established the Standards Act and the Weights & Measures Regime in February of 2008, her Ministry is advancing full steam ahead to ensure that the Bureau of Standards is fully operational, effectual, and that this standards body is afforded the legislative teeth to ensure compliance with regional and international treaties.

She said: To date, some of the achievements of the Ministry include:

Minister Strachan pointed out that her Ministry intends to gainfully employ an additional 10 members of staff (Cabinet approved), particularly with technical competency, to give effect to the work of the Bureau of Standards in the new budget year commencing this July.

And also, the Bureau has conducted several sensitization workshops throughout the Commonwealth of The Bahamas on the benefits and importance of standardization at which there was public outcry that the Bureau of Standards is long overdue.

Minister Strachan said, “the mandates for the Bureau of Standards will help to advance the national economy, support sustainable development, benefit the health, safety and welfare of workers and the public, assist and protect consumers, facilitate domestic and international trade and further international cooperation in relation to standardization.

“While this work ahead is a gargantuan task, I am confident this Standards Council will undoubtedly begin to make certain these systems are effectively implemented.

“The Standards Bureau will be the institution to help the Country build its national quality infrastructure (NQI). Quality Infrastructure refers to all aspects of metrology, standardization, testing, certification and accreditation that have a bearing on conformity assessment. This includes both public and private institutions and the regulatory framework within which they operate.”

She continued, “if the Caribbean is to see continued growth as an emerging market for foreign investment and also export its goods and services to the rest of the world we must implement an effective QI system to improve and support health and safety, environment, competitiveness, trade, research and development, and innovation.”

In concluding Minister Strachan said: “I now ask that you study the Standards and Weights & Measures Act and begin to ensure the following policies and procedures are set in motion:

I anticipate that your work will produce a policy to serve the Bureau of Standards; and in so doing serve the people of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas. God bless you all.”

As the newest standards bureau in the region, The Bahamas Bureau of Standards and Quality (BBSQ) is now well on the way to enhancing its offering of accreditation and measurement standardisation services with the signing of two Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with the CARICOM Regional Organization for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) recently.

Minister of Financial Services, Hon. C. V. Hope Strachan, under whose portfolio the BBSQ resides, signed the documents on April 30, 2015, to establish the Caribbean Cooperation for Accreditation (CCA) Scheme, and to recognize the Bureau of Standards Jamaica’s (BSJ) Mass Metrology Laboratory as the Caribbean Reference Laboratory (CaRL) for Mass Metrology.

Accreditation, which is a third-party attestation, refers to the demonstration of competence in certification, inspection and testing, by a conformity assessment body. The CCA Scheme brings together such bodies for the purpose of mutual cooperation and collaboration toward facilitating trade in the Caribbean region and internationally. CROSQ coordinates the support services for these facilities.

Metrology, on the other hand, is the science of measurement; and the CaRL Scheme is aimed at providing economical and sustainable traceability in specific quantities by National Metrology Institutes (NMI) within the region. A CaRL is a metrology laboratory within a NMI or Designated Institute in the CARICOM region, recognized by CROSQ as a regional reference lab for a specific measurement quantity or magnitude within a defined scope.

The signing of the two documents have begun the process of moving the national standards body, BBSQ in The Bahamas, from its early conceptual phase into being the premier institution in the country for quality infrastructure services.

With the CCA Scheme in place, the BBSQ will be better able to access economical and readily available accreditation services through the Jamaica National Agency for Accreditation (JANAAC) and the Trinidad and Tobago Laboratory Accreditation Service (TTLABS); be able to facilitate the development of regional quality infrastructure as well as facilitate regional and international trade; provide avenues for manufacturers to expand their markets, as well as give them local access to internationally recognized conformity assessment services, among other benefits.

Being a signatory to the CaRL MOU for Mass Metrology will mean that the BBSQ will have access to calibrations at reduced cost from the Bureau of Standards Jamaica for its national reference mass standards. This will translate into a reduced cost for maintaining the traceability of mass measurements in The Bahamas. Additionally, the BBSQ will be able to access technical assistance from the BSJ mass metrology experts, which will prove especially important as the BBSQ now develops its capability in this area.

Director of the BBSQ, Dr. Ferguson-Bufford was particularly heartened by the signing of the CaRL MOU between the Bureau of Standards Jamaica, and the Government of The Bahamas. She noted that the role of the CaRL was to provide measurement traceability to the Caribbean region by serving as the ‘entry point’ of the highest measurement capability within the region characterized by having an international recognized quality management system, the smallest measurement uncertainty and highest technical capability in the region.

The completion of the CCA MOU will happen when the CROSQ Council meets in Barbados this week, from May 6 – 8, to set that scheme in motion and empower the Bahamian bureau as far as accreditation services are concerned.

“We have been working for quite some time to get the Bureau of Standards in The Bahamas up and running effectively and the signing of these MOUs demonstrate a commitment to making our country one of the regional leaders of quality infrastructure. We have been sensitizing Bahamians on the importance and benefits of standards, and also promoting and implementing quality services into everything that we do. Now, the Bureau has more power to begin to offer the services that our private and public sectors need to make them more competitive on regional and international markets.

“I would like to thank Minister Strachan for committing to the process all the way, as well as to the CARICOM Regional Organization for Standards & Quality (CROSQ) for lending the technical assistance to get us to this point, and their continued commitment to ensure that we are fully operational.  As the ‘new kid on the block’ as far as regional QI is concerned, we know a lot is expected and we will strive, harder than ever, to live up to those expectations,” said Dr. Ferguson-Bufford.

This move towards further development of the BBSQ has been made possible through funding by the European Union through the 10thEuropean Development Fund Economic Partnership Agreement Caribbean Regional Indicative Programme, focusing on Technical Barriers to Trade.

The newest bureau in the CARICOM Regional Organization for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) network, The Bahamas Bureau of Standards and Quality (BBSQ), recently held a week of intensive activities aimed at updating legislation, devising a strategic plan and increasing the capacity within the institution.

Drawing on its own national resources, as well as those under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) Technical Barrier to Trade (TBT) programme, the BBSQ brought together a number of consultants from September 28 to October 2, 2015, to aid in necessary institutional development.

According to the Bahamas Information Service, the foreign consultants, Dr. Joseph Khan and Mr. David Tomlinson, were welcomed by Minister of Financial Service, Hon. C. V. Hope Strachan; Permanent Secretary, Mr. David Davis; Ministry Consultant Mr. Hillary Deveaux; Project Manager, Ms. Sandiria Hall and Bureau Director, Dr. Renae Ferguson-Bufford. Local legal consultant, Ms. Tira Greene, who is a specialist in legal reform and drafting in developing countries, was also among the team of experts on the mission.

Minister Strachan, the BIS noted, expressed her gratitude to the team for the assistance they provided to the BBSQ, and while noting the demanding task ahead, had high praises for the work already done by the BBSQ.

The Minister also noted that the development of the BBSQ and the two projects ­– the redrafting of legislation to comply with the World Trade Organization TBT Agreement, and the finalization of a three-year strategic plan – were strategically aligned to the Government’s mandate. This mandate speaks to the creation of an enabling infrastructure that supports the economic development and growth of The Bahamas. Minister Strachan recognized that the initiatives would meet international standards, while reducing technical barriers to trade.

Management consultant, Dr. Khan, was charged with the development of the BBSQ’s Strategic Plan and spent the early part of the week with stakeholders delineating the bureau’s strategic plan. Mr. Tomlinson, Technical Officer responsible for Metrology in the region with CROSQ provided additional technical assistance as he has been doing with the bureau due to his in-depth knowledge of the quality needs of the country, as well as his expertise in metrology, which is the science of measurement. Both consultants undertook these initiatives with funding through the 10th EDF TBT programme.

Ms. Greene has been working with the BBSQ towards finalizing the proposed changes to the Standards Act, the Consumer Protection Act, and the Weights and Measures Act to ensure international compliance with the WTO TBT Agreement.

The week started with a stakeholder engagement; legislative drafting on Tuesday; Strategic Plan development on Wednesday; a Metrology workshop with BBSQ staff on Thursday, and even with approaching bad weather, concluded with focus on technical assistance on Friday.