ISLAMABAD: In a display of negligence within the Pakistan Standard and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA), it has been disclosed that all the laboratories under PSQCA have remained unaccredited for years, failing to meet the required standards of proficiency, technical expertise, and competent staff. This revelation has raised significant concerns about the validity and reliability of the test reports issued by the Quality Control Center (QCC), an attached department of the Ministry of Science and Technology, which still continues to issue reports without conducting tests in accredited labs, as mandated by regulations.
Insiders have disclosed that thousands of samples collected by PSQCA or sent by companies seeking certificates/conformity reports either remain untested or have received fake reports. To make matters worse, PSQCA occasionally refers tests to private labs accredited by the Pakistan National Accreditation Council (PNAC), indicating a glaring failure on the part of the regulatory authority to fulfill its fundamental role, making the authority entirely redundant.
Official sources reveal that all 15 labs under PSQCA have lost their accreditation with PNAC, the national body responsible for regulating and accrediting laboratories and certification bodies. This loss of accreditation is due to various deficiencies, including inadequate machinery, technical staff, proficiency, and other specified requirements.
Director General of PNAC, Asmat Gul Khtak, confirmed that PSQCA labs are currently not accredited by PNAC, although there may be one or two exceptions. The affected PSQCA labs encompass a range of specialties, such as Microbiology, Instruments, Water, Sugar, Oil & Fat, Consumer, Feed, Mechanical, Electrical, Textile, Cement, XRF, Workshop, and more. These industries are not only customary to Pakistan’s domestic supply but are also integral to Pakistan’s exports. Insiders also report that lab assistants and UDCs habitually conduct tests without involving senior staff or technical experts.
The ISO-17026 accredited QCC Karachi lab, in particular, has faced significant issues for the past four years, with its accreditation certificate suspended, rendering its test reports void of national or international recognition. Problems extend to the Sample Collection Centre’s management, with personnel changes causing disruptions and concerning reports of missing samples. Valuable equipment has allegedly been sold in local markets. A prominent figure in this regard, Mr. Pervez Shaikh appears to have an overwhelming role in running seven labs, issuing over 2000 lab test reports manually each month, with no use of machines. High-value machines, including a 70-million-worth XRF machine, purchased in 2016, remain unused as per sources.
Personnel matters have also come into question, with allegations surrounding Ashfaq Ujjan’s transfer and claims of improper conduct and influence within the organization. These issues demand thorough investigation and corrective measures to restore credibility and functionality to QCC Karachi.
Dr. Tahira, Director of Quality Control Centre (QCC) Karachi, attributes the overall situation at PSQCA to the prolonged absence of a regular Director General and Secretary, affecting the affairs of QCC. She cites the suspension of lab accreditation by PNAC to a lack of budget and technical staff, despite multiple requests for provision.
According to the Pakistan National Accreditation Council’s website, all PSQCA labs, nine in Karachi and four in Lahore, have lost accreditation. The PSQCA, the country’s primary national standards setting agency, is responsible for maintaining standards for industrial and consumer products, including edible items. It enforces quality and environmental management systems like ISO 9001:2000 and ISO 14000 and assists local industries in obtaining certifications for these systems.
It’s worth noting that Pakistan recently faced suspension from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) due to non-payment of annual subscription fees and lack of responsiveness to communications. This suspension has implications for the country’s standing in international standardization efforts.
Secretary Ministry of Science and Technology Ali Raza Bhutta didn’t reply to queries regarding the suspension of PSQCA labs.
The situation at PSQCA is a matter of grave concern, as it not only impacts the quality of products in Pakistan but also tarnishes the country’s reputation on the global stage. Urgent measures are needed to address these issues and restore the authority’s credibility and functionality.