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Some SABS Approved geysers are Sheq risks

Some SABS Approved geysers are health, safety, environment, quality, maintenance and cost risks. SABS suspended seven managers in another standards scandal.

Seven SABS managers were “provisionally suspended” for their alleged involvement in the “fraudulent use of SABS Approved Marks” on certain geysers. SABS said they were “investigating complaints that insufficient care was taken in the testing and certification process”.

Beeld reported that the suspect geysers are widely used in townships. Some suppliers advertise a “superior alternative range of geysers”, mainly in second-hand catalogues.

In addition to fraud by some suppliers, SABS management and marketing strategies have been suspect for years, including the conversion of test marks to the “SABS Approved” mark since 2007, to signify “safety, quality, and recourse to redress”.

Some applications of the SABS Approved mark by SABS clients have been controversial. Before conversion to ‘Approval’, SABS marks used to signify only testing against the relevant standard.

Several other SABS Approved mark quality issues each add their own question marks to the facade of quality assurance and large expansions at the SABS campus in Pretoria;

• SABS Approved Chinese condom saga; see and and
• SABS Approved electrical appliances saga; see
• SABS Test House cellphone health impacts test results mystery
• SANS firehose reel standard amendment process; see
• SABS ISO 9001 quality standard certification of the Post Office; see
• SABS National Regulator of Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) saga; see

Some hot water geysers are poor quality, and poorly installed, yet bear the SABS Approved mark.
Some hot water geysers are poor quality, and poorly installed, yet bear the SABS Approved mark.

DPW warned against SABS marks

A construction auditor had notified the Department of Public Works (DPW) that either ‘oversight’ or organised fraud involving SABS marks may have been perpetrated for many years, and recommended an urgent investigation.

Many state tenants of DPW buildings have complained of leaks and problematic connections “at every connecting point”, partly due to non-standard fittings.

Builders and home owners used to trust SABS marks, partly since insurers specify SABS marks and promptly pay the cost of replacing burst geysers.

However the cost of geyser leaks extend to the health impacts of mould and rot in cladding, insulation, ceilings, beams and walls.

Geyser maintenance and replacements burden employers, insurers, and home owners with costs, while geysers suppliers make more profit on lower quality, and higher turnover.

The weakest link in the Sheq chain regarding a wide range of equipment, such as geysers, electrical appliances, condoms, and some hose reels, is the SABS Test House, and the awarding of the SABS mark to SABS clients.

Several incidents indicated that product test results favour SABS Mark holders, at the expense of health, safety, environment and quality considerations.

Some suppliers abuse SABS marks

Manufacturers were warned against some suppliers using the SANS 1315 certificate as a sales tool, reported Plumbing Africa and Technology in Architecture. This standard was withdrawn in December 2010.

Specifiers and installers were warned against suppliers of polycop using SANS 1315 certificates. SANS 1315 was replaced with SANS 15874: 2007 (with updates); Plastic piping for hot and cold water installations /polypropylene (PP) inside buildings.

The SABS Mark applies to the whole system, and not just a part or test. The parts making up the SABS Mark are; general, pipes, fittings, fitness for purpose, and assessment.

SABS managing Mark abuse

The SABS annual report of 2013 noted that “approximately 32% of business units across the organisation are at risk of fraud. Some areas for potential risk of fraudulent behaviour include certificate fraud, including misuse of SABS Certificates”.

The SABS Fraud Hotline is independently managed by Internal Audit and guarantees the anonymity of whistle blowers. Fraud awareness sessions were held with employees.

The hotline recorded 46 calls during the year, 63% relating to SABS Mark abuse by some suppliers. The standards authority had resolved to “speed up finalisation of SABS Mark abuse cases, and developing measures to deter companies from this practice”.

Some cases, headed “unethical behaviour”, related to complaints about the conduct of SABS employees, forming about 7% of the reported cases. Some related to procurement and tender fraud, some to gifts from clients.

Fraud procedures involve disciplinary action; criminal proceedings; civil litigation; and recovery of losses.

SABS corruption, fraud and maladministration

Twelve years ago, the Democratic Alliance repeatedly called for an urgent commission of inquiry to investigate allegations of corruption and fraud at the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS).

DA trade and industry spokesperson Mark Lowe welcomed the findings of an investigation commission by the SABS Council, and action taken against certain senior managers, but said many questions remained unanswered.

However, the investigation appeared to have been limited to human resource problems. The SABS receives over R90m in public funds every year, and operates commercially as quality and environmental auditors and certifiers.

* Sources; SABS. Beeld.

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