Measurement Units nd Measurement Standards Bill; Accreditation for Conformity Assessment, Calibration & Good Laboratory Practice

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Trade and Industry

05 September 2006
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Meeting report

TRADE AND INDUSTRY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
6 September 2006
MEASUREMENT UNITS AND MEASUREMENT STANDARDS BILL; ACCREDITATION FOR CONFORMITY ASSESSMENT, CALIBRATION AND GOOD LABORATORY PRACTICE BILL: BRIEFING

Acting Chairperson
: Mr D Oliphant (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Measurement Units and Measurement Standards Bil [B21-2006]
Accreditation for Conformity Assessment, Calibration and Good Laboratory Practice Bill, 2006
Measurement Units and Measurement Standards Bill presentation

SUMMARY
The two Bills had been given to Parliament on 23 August 2006 but had only finally been certified by the State Law Advisors now, hence these formal discussions. The National Metrology Institute was the base of the whole structure as it underpinned testing and calibration through national measurement standards. They also had to co-ordinate, interact and manage the international, regional and bilateral interaction with other national metrology institutes and bodies.

The objects of the South African National Accreditation System were to accredit and monitor organisations falling within its scope of activity for good laboratory purposes and promote accreditation as a means of facilitating international trade and enhancing South Africa’s economic performance and transformation. The board had to establish a (voluntary) consultative forum that consisted of the representatives of bodies with an interest in metrology and the representatives of accredited bodies.

MINUTES
Measurement Units and Measurement Standards Bill
Dr T Demana, an Executive Manager at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), said that the two Bills had been introduced in Parliament on 23 August 2006 and had finally been certified, hence these formal discussions.

South Africa’s technical infrastructure was as follows: the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) was responsible for standards, the South African National Accreditation System (SANAS) was responsible for accreditation to ensure competence, and the National Metrology Institute (NMI) was responsible for measurement. The NMI was the base of the whole structure as it underpinned testing and calibration through national measurement standards (NMS). They were also responsible for the use of measurement units of the International System of Units and certain other measurements.

The NMI kept and maintained the NMS and units and disseminated traceability to the South African industries. The objects of the NMI were to maintain the units described in the Act and advise the Minister on other units in the Act. They were to keep and maintain all NMS and arrange for the appropriate periodic comparison of NMS with the corresponding NMS or references recognised as such and ensure their correction if necessary.

The NMI had to certify reference materials and arrange for the comparison of the related procedures and primary methods with the corresponding other national procedures and primary methods and ensure their correction if necessary. The NMI had to ensure compliance and validation with the stipulations of the Mutual Recognition Arrangement and effect the inclusion of South Africa’s calibration and measurement capabilities in this arrangement. They also had to co-ordinate, interact and manage the international, regional and bilateral interaction with other national metrology institutes and bodies.

The board of the NMI would consist of 10 to 15 members appointed by the Minister; a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) appointed by virtue of his or her office; not more than two senior managers of the NMI appointed by the Minister as executive board members and non-executive members appointed by the Minister.

The Minister had to ensure that the members were broadly representative of the population of the country and had sufficient knowledge, experience or qualifications that related to the functions of the NMI and the responsibilities of the board including business management, finance, marketing,  international or regional metrology, standardisation and technical regulatory matters. The chairperson of the board had to be selected by the members of the board and approved by the Minister.   

The board had to establish a (voluntary) consultative forum that consisted of the representatives of bodies with an interest in metrology and the representatives of accredited bodies. The board had to ensure that different interests were adequately represented in the forum. The forum had to advise the board on matters in respect of which the NMI could play a role and any other matter on which the board requested advice. The board also had to establish a constitution, and if necessary, rules for the forum.

The CEO and all other employees would be transferred to the NMI as if section 197 of the Labour Relations Act, 1995 were applicable.

Discussion
Ms F Mohamed (ANC) asked why different measurements were needed all over the world. She said she was worried about small to medium enterprises (SMEs). Some could not conform to all of the standards as it was simply too expensive to do so. How could they be assisted? What had led to the creation of the NMI from the National Metrology Laboratory (NML)?

Dr W Louw, the Acting CEO of the NMI, replied that ideally, world measurements should be the same and there were efforts to ensure that the same measurements were used. For example, 120 countries (including South Africa) had decided to use the metric system.. There were special programmes in place to help SMEs compete internationally. The SABS, SANAS, the NML and the Small Enterprise Development Agency of the DTI were all involved. The SMEs were receiving training and their progress was charted until they could compete. 

Dr Demana added that metrology was the basis of all measurements in South Africa but the CSRI (under which the NML fell) and the NMI had different mandates and the NML had the wrong profile. The NML could not engage with the SABS or SANAS as they were on different levels and had a higher status than the NML. Globalisation meant that all three had to work closely together so they had to have the same status to do their work effectively.

Dr P Rabie (DA) asked if standards were used to impede trade into certain countries.

Dr Louw replied that standards or technical barriers were used to impede trade. They did create many problems but to undo some of their effects, national standards had to improve to be allowed to penetrate those markets.

Accreditation for Conformity Assessment, Calibration and Good Laboratory Practice Bill
Dr Demana said that the mandate for this Bill was to provide accreditation services to formally regulate the technical competency of conformity assessment service providers that offered testing and certification services in both the public and private sectors.

The objects of SANAS were to accredit and monitor organisations falling within its scope of activity for good laboratory purposes (GLP); promote accreditation as a means of facilitiating international trade and enhancing South Africa’s economic performance and transformation; promote the competence and equivalence of accredited bodies and promote the competence and equivalence of compliant GLP facilities.

The board would consist of 10 to 15 members appointed by the Minister; a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) appointed by virtue of his or her office; not more than two senior managers of SANAS appointed by the Minister as executive board members and non-executive members appointed by the Minister.

The Minister had to ensure that the members were broadly representative of the population of the country and had sufficient knowledge, experience or qualifications that related to the functions of SANAS and the responsibilities of the board including business management; finance; marketing; international or regional metrology; standardisation and technical regulatory matters. The chairperson of the board had to be selected by the members of the board and approved by the Minister.   

The board had to establish a (voluntary) consultative forum that consisted of the representatives of bodies with an interest in metrology and the representatives of accredited bodies. The board had to ensure that different interests were adequately represented in the forum. The forum had to advise the board on matters in respect of which SANAS could play a role and any other matter on which the board requested advice. The board also had to establish a constitution, and if necessary, rules for the forum.

The CEO and all other employees would be transferred to SANAS as if section 197 of the Labour Relations Act, 1995 were applicable.

Discussion
Mr J Maake (ANC) asked what “broadly representative” meant.

Dr Demana replied that representivity had to do with the demographics of the country. This meant that the composition of the board took into account sex, religion, language and race.

Ms Mohamed asked if there were enough women on their staff.

Dr Demana replied that 19 out of the staff of 32 people were women.

Mr S Njikelana (ANC) asked why some posts were not filled.

Dr Demana replied that the organisation had grown very quickly over the last ten years and many new posts had to be created and this led to the unfilled posts. However, they were working to have them filled as soon as possible.

The meeting was adjourned.




 

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