Genesis of KENAS

Genesis of KENAS

Mr. Joel Kioko is a retired employee of the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS). For several years, he worked as the Director of Metrology and Testing Division. While working at the metrology department, he pioneered the process of accreditation for independent calibration laboratories in the country, which thereafter influenced the establishment of Kenya Accreditation Services (KENAS). He consequently pioneered accreditation in the region. The Communication and PR department had a chance to interview Mr. Kioko and this is what he had to share.

EVE: Where did the concept of accreditation begin?

MR. KIOKO: Initially the Department of Metrology and Testing at KEBS was doing calibration activities. The Kenyan military needed conformity assessment for its goods in the late 70s and early 80’s so the need for standardization and accreditation begun there. So, our department interacted with the metrology teams in Austrialia, Germany and South Africa where we concluded that we could adopt a quality management system for our calibration laboaratory. Therefore, the department was trained by the National Metrology Institute of Germany called PTB (Physikalisch Technische Bundesanstalt).
Of course, by that time the well-known ISO 9001 series was not introduced so metrology was the initiator of standardization in Kenya and that is why PTB came to train us and show us how to keep a quality management system for our laboratories. However, later on in the 80s and 90s, the ISO 9001 series as well as the ISO GUD 25 for testing and calibration laboratories was established and we automatically adopted these for our calibration lab. But there was a need for accreditation of the calibration laboratory at KEBS because we were seeking to be the leaders of quality in the region. Our aim was to be number one.

EVE: So, what did you do?

MR. KIOKO: In 1984, the Metrology department at KEBS proposed for the establishment of the National Calibration Service which was supposed to accredit the calibration laboratories in the region that had embraced Quality Management Systems for their labs. And it is at this point that we appointed a gentleman to oversee the activities called Mr.John Rukaria.

EVE: Was the Metrology department at KEBS also accredited by the National Calibration Service?

MR. KIOKO: No, the Metrology department was accredited by the German Accreditation Council which is today known as DAkkS in 1989 using the ISO GUD 25 for calibration laboratories. So, a few years later we saw the need to establish a national scheme for registering auditors and assessors that would be used to help in the accreditation process by the National Calibration Service. A committee known as the Quality Systems Assessment Committee (QSAC) led by Eng. Nyamunga came to existence. The role of the committee was to audit and assess those laboratories that had adopted international standards like ISO 9000 among others.

EVE: So do we still have the QSAC operational?

MR. KIOKO: No, it was disbanded. This was after KEBS contracted ILAC to carry
out an audit on QSAC and offer advice and recommendations. Among the findings were that there were conflicts of interest, given that QSAC was offering services of certification and accreditation at the same time.

EVE: So what happened next?

MR. KIOKO: At this point, the East African countries were coming together to form the East African Community
and it was evident that enhanced trade was going to happen among members countries. The countries
agreed that there had to be a way harmonizing all standards and creating an East African accreditation scheme. The countries established the need to embrace quality infrastructure framework as well as the SQMT (Standardization, Quality Assurance, Metrology and Testing) Act was developed to help facilitate trade and transfer of goods and services. The SQMT was an instrument of operations that would operationalize within the East Africa region.

EVE: Did we have an accreditation body at this point?

MR. KIOKO: An accreditation body was formed after the Act. Actually the SQMT technical committees are the ones who saw the need for accreditation because of the growing need to embrace quality management systems. So the technical committees asked PTB Germany to facilitate a meeting between the East African states in 2004 at Bagamoyo, Tanzania. This was arrived at after a meeting in Bagamoyo, in Tanzania. Kenya was lucky to have had a body that was already carrying out accreditation services. Other countries did not have. This gave Kenya an edge over her neighbors. It is in this meeting that the Kenya Accreditation Service was born

EVE: Why Kenya? Didn’t other countries want to take up the opportunity?

MR. KIOKO: As I mentioned before, Kenya had an upper hand since they were already aware of accreditation and its importance. It was therefore, not very difficult for the Kenyan team to come up with a more concrete idea – a national accreditation service. In fact, the Kenyan team came up with the name in the meeting, Kenya Accreditation Services (KENAS). Of course they wanted to grab the opportunity to be the first accreditation body in the area.

EVE: What steps did you take thereafter?

Mr. KIOKO: After Bagamoyo, the Kenyan delegation which included myself and Martin Chesire had constituted KENAS and we knew that we had to fully legalise the process. The team then decided to work on regulations that would define the role of KENAS and proposed two people who would manage internal processes as we awaited the formal gazettement and Legislation-Mr. Sammy Milgo and Mr. John Rukaria. One of the reasons for formation of KENAS was to have an accreditation body that is independent of KEBS even though KENAS was funded by KEBS for its initial operations.

EVE: Wasn’t that conflict of interest? How does an accreditation body get funded by a body they are supposed to accredit?

Mr. KIOKO: Well, there were those concerns and that is why the QSAC technical committee’s desire was KENAS to be an independent body. In 2007, KENAS started operating from its own offices. Remember though that it was still not a legal entity and that limited its operations.

EVE: So when did KENAS become a legal entity?

Mr. KIOKO: It was in 2009 when it was established via Legal Notice No.55.

EVE: That was quite a journey Mr. Kioko, did you experience challenges during the period? From the time an accreditation idea happened to the time KENAS was formed?

Mr. KIOKO: Of course, just like any other project, there were challenges. You do realize the process took quite
a long period, partly because of these challenges. Some of them included; because of lack of knowledge and understanding of accreditation, there was quite a bit of political interference and slow decision making processes among others.

EVE: Thank you Mr. Kioko. We appreciate your contribution in the accreditation field. What do you do now?

Mr. KIOKO: Well, I am now retired, I am a consultant here and there and that’s it.

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