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Accreditation, HQAI's backbone

Accreditation, HQAI's backbone

A milestone was reached thanks to HQAI's accreditation by Accredia

In 2018 ACCREDIA chose to open up a new avenue by performing the accreditation audit of HQAI, which is a Conformity Assessment Body (CAB) providing independent quality assurance services for organisations in the humanitarian and development sector. Later that year, HQAI’s Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability (CHS) certification scheme was accredited against ISO/IEC 17065:2012. As an active member of the humanitarian and development field, HQAI is accountable to people affected by crises, audited organisations, donors as well as other interested parties.

Since humanitarian organisations and, more specifically, NGOs receive donors’ money, they are requested to go through intense due diligence scrutiny. This process tends to repeat itself for every donor, creating duplication, and additional workload and costs, which could be avoided if only one solid due diligence framework were implemented.

The EU is a major funder in the humanitarian sector through its European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) department, whose due diligence requirements are known to be among the most stringent in the sector. ECHO needs accurate assurance that the organisations it funds respond and implement its financial, quality and accountability requirements. As a result, ECHO is especially thorough and consistent when auditing organisations delivering this assurance.

Last year, HQAI undertook a combined audit against the CHS and ECHO’s due diligence requirements. That was possible because it was found that a CHS audit produces about 80% of the information necessary to comply with ECHO’s requirements. The combined audit consisted in adding questions to the CHS checklist to fill in the missing 20%.

Mostly based on ACCREDIA’s accreditation of HQAI’s certification scheme against ISO/IEC 17065, ECHO accepted the result of this audit, de facto recognising the professionalism of HQAI. The net result is a major financial and human resource saving for audited organisations compared to undergoing two separate audits.

Savings in conformity assessment processes mean proportionately more available resources for the operations of audited organisations. Since the concerned organisations operate in the humanitarian sector, that results in the availability of more resources for direct aid work. In this sense, it can be said that accreditation saves lives. During the current COVID pandemic, where the need for emergency response is high but resources are extremely limited, such rationalisation at no expense of the rigour of the auditing process is fundamental.

More specifically, HQAI audited Act Church of Sweden (Act CoS), an international non-governmental organisation (NGO) certified against the CHS since 2016. The combined audit took place as part of ACT CoS’ recertification audit.

According to Désirée Walter, Executive Director at HQAI: “So much time, money and goodwill are lost every day, although the appropriate tools exist to reduce duplication and lighten the due diligence burden in the aid sector. Without losing any of the necessary rigour, HQAI can create bridges between different sets of requirements and achieve significant economies for organisations by saving millions of EUR per year in the aid sector. This money is better spent on humanitarian aid than administrative due diligence processes.”

Certification by the HQAI accredited body assesses humanitarian organisations' management of financial and human resources, for greater transparency towards funders, supporters and beneficiaries. Accredia, the internationally-recognised Italian Accreditation Body

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