Our viewpoint on Assessors getting 'Struck Off’
‘Struck Off’ Assessors :
An accreditation body’s viewpoint
Elmhurst Energy Operations Director Martyn Reed looks at how many of its assessors really have their accreditation withdrawn, and the important role that accreditation bodies play in maintaining the value of EPCs
There has been a lot written recently about QA and the ability of an accreditation body to revoke an individual's membership.
The recent concern expressed that the volume of members forced out of the industry has risen sharply in recent years is we believe incorrect. In relation to Elmhurst’s acquisition of the BRE scheme in November 2014, a significant number of former BRE members, who were no longer active, voluntarily decided to leave the industry. As these assessors, who number almost 80 in total, were accredited by both BRE and Elmhurst, they were ‘double-counted’ when the total number of strike-offs was declared. Throughout the whole of 2014, Elmhurst took the decision to revoke the accreditation of just seven members.
The Scheme Operating Requirements (SORs) are very prescriptive in the way that all schemes are required to undertake QA including the escalation process following audit failure. As this is a mandatory obligation under the SORs, there is a substantial cost to schemes to:
- Request and complete random audits
- Request and complete targeted audits where assessors fail random audits
- Administer corrective action following audit failures
- Request audits at a higher frequency following corrective action
- Invoke disciplinary proceedings
Please also consider that, where an assessor is struck off by a scheme then that individual is a "lost customer"; their custom is lost – it is therefore not in the interests of a scheme to strike off an assessor unless there is no other alternative.
The purpose of Quality Assurance is to safeguard the credibility of EPCs and to ensure that all energy assessors operate to the same high standard.
Confidentiality prevents us from divulging the details of specific cases, but examples of practices which have led Elmhurst to revoke assessors’ accreditation include:
- Where unusually high volumes of lodgements have been identified and sampled for audit, requested QA evidence has not been provided by an assessor. Enquiries have uncovered practices of individuals, who were neither trained nor accredited, collecting data on behalf of a member and then EPCs subsequently being lodged without an assessor having personally inspected the properties.
- The same photographs being submitted for multiple audit submissions. Rather than this being an isolated incident, or as a result of poor administration, it was also found that many of the other details were also duplicated. When challenged, admissions that properties have not been inspected and, to save time, had produced EPCs based on the assumption that they were the same as neighbouring property.
These examples highlight acting dishonestly, and assessors were neither spending the time nor bearing the costs of doing the job properly and, as a consequence, such actions undermine our industry, driving down the price of EPCs and depriving legitimate and hardworking members of income.
Whenever Elmhurst identifies issues which are suspicious and cause for concern, we will always contact the assessor and request an explanation. If it is simply a lack of understanding, or perhaps a simple mistake, then we will agree with the member actions that will prevent re-occurrence of the issue identified. Recent examples of preventive action include;
- assessors have spent an hour with our technical support team and suggestions made on how to file their evidence,
- reading one of the many technical bulletins and manuals issued by Elmhurst Energy and,
- re-training. We do not demand that a member gets retrained, and never mandate that training must be with Elmhurst, although we of course believe it to be the best!
If we are not satisfied it is likely that the assessor will be suspended pending further investigation and, invariably, invite the member to present their case.
If we can have confidence that the individual can be refocused, retrained or simply feel that the threat of being struck off is a sufficient wake up call, then we will always work with that individual and give them every opportunity to improve their practices and continue to lodge EPCs.
Where the member persistently breaches the Scheme Operating Requirements or Code of Conduct, despite Elmhurst’s efforts to assist them, or the individual has been engaged in dishonest or illegal practices, as a last resort Elmhurst will have no choice but to revoke their accreditation. Even then, members are advised of the independent appeals process which allows the member the option of presenting their case, in person or in writing, to an independent panel.
The panel itself comprises three individuals selected from our independent Oversight Board, each of which is drawn from a different stakeholder group, consumers, property surveying, industrial engineering and energy assessment; Elmhurst staff are not represented. It is important to note that the decision of the appeals panel is binding on Elmhurst; therefore, if we are found to have revoked the accreditation of a member without justification, the panel have the authority to overturn our decision.
Elmhurst Energy is proud of the reputation we have for technical standards, support and fairness and we will always work with like-minded energy assessors to ensure that EPCs are accurate for the end-user and help promote a level playing field for our hardworking members.