On one of my contracts I asked to see the Certificate of Compliance from a accredited calibration agency because I concluded that the ‘certificate’ on file was simply a Work Order issued by the technician who had checked the equipment. The WO only referenced the certificate number. I wanted the proper certificate to be on file and listed in the Master Document List.
My request languished until the day of the assessment, despite many requests from the QAM. Of course the assessor wasn’t satisfied with the document we had on file. We faxed the calibration agency insisting that we get the proper certificate sometime that day. What we actually received was another copy of the Work Order used by the technician who had calibrated the equipment, with the original certificate number whited out and another number written (hand-written) above. Unfortunately, this came into the assessor’s hands as he was standing by the fax machine with the QAM. I was standing to the side and he turned to me and commented to me that he considered it to be fraud (which it was).
The Operations Manager put in a personal call to the calibration agency to request the certificate. The owner of the agency said that he wasn’t prepared to send a copy because “people sometimes altered the certificates in their own favour”. (I don’t know what he means either). He did eventually agree to fax a copy to the assessor’s office.
The moral of this story is to check, check and keep checking the effect of subcontractors, and their documentation, on the integrity of your quality certification. The time wasted above, let alone the threat to the certification, could have been avoided by being alert to the suitability of documentation that purports to verify the status of your quality system.
And, of course, all documents should be verified by responsibility authorities and their revision status impeccable.