The ISO 9000 Problem


by Teresa Kok Suh Sim

(Parliament, Wednesday):  In the newspaper report by The Star on 6 Nov 2002, the Deputy Prime Minister said that the government might require industries in our nation to obtain the ISO certificate from SIRIM to encourage them to offer quality products and services.  Today, only industries making safety products require SIRIM certificates. 

His remarks raise questions on ISO.  Does ISO certification truly reflect the actual product or service quality?


If we examine the ISO references, for example the guide “Quality Systems – Specification for Quality Assurance in Design, Development, Production, Installation and Servicing” and codenamed SS ISO 9001: 1994 from the Singapore Institute of Standards and Industrial Research, (an) ISO (endorsement) actually means that a product made by an ISO (certified) company should be ideal or “defect free”; but in reality, many goods that have an ISO and a SIRIM chop do not have the desired standard of quality.


For example, a college in my Parliamentary district, that is the ISO certified Central Academy of Arts, was ordered to close by the Ministry of Education last year.  The college had used its ISO qualification to attract its students.  It even printed its ISO qualification on its letterheads.


Many students felt cheated with the college’s closure.  After studying in the college for several years, their hopes of obtaining the necessary qualifications were dashed.


Because the SIRIM and the ISO 9000 chop is seen as a product quality guarantee, many products having an ISO 9000 stamp are marketed at a higher price.  Yet their quality is not as good as similar products without (an) ISO qualification.


The trend requiring ISO 9000 certification has caused many ‘certification bodies’ and consultants racing to secure contracts from companies wishing to get its products certified.  This condition creates unrestrained corruption between the companies and the certification bodies, thereby resulting in a drop in the necessary (quality) standards.



*  Teresa Kok Suh Sim, MP for Seputeh