NATA News Archive
- Published: 28 November 2014
NATA has a number of formal agreements with stakeholder organisations. The majority of these are with government agencies but some are with the professional bodies associated with specific accreditation programs.
Two types of agreement exist.
- Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) – are arrangements that are not legally binding on the parties but which facilitate a range of cooperative activities of mutual interest. MOUs contain undertakings, both individual and joint. Despite the legal status of such agreements, NATA takes them seriously and considers its undertakings more as obligations.
- Deeds of Agreement – are more contractual in nature and are usually required when NATA undertakes a key function (sometimes statutory) on behalf of a government agency. Deeds contain binding obligations rather than undertakings.
Compliance with Privacy legislation is always a requirement on the parties to MOUs and Deeds and both undergo legal scrutiny to ensure this is appropriately addressed.
MOUs can be developed between NATA and a government agency when an increased and/or formalised level of information exchange will better facilitate the achievement of policy and regulatory objectives. Such arrangements are tailored to satisfy the particular purpose of the agency but a common theme in all is that they provide for:
- recognition of NATA’s national interest role;
- discipline to the relationship between NATA and the agency in terms of the structure and processes around how the two parties engage;
- the type and nature of any information to be exchanged and the associated conditions under which this will take place.
Regulation R.39 of the NATA Rules permits the exchange of information otherwise considered privileged and confidential, where such an agreement exists.
Some MOUs are primarily designed to provide government recognition of NATA’s role and provisions for exchanging information of a nature that assists both parties in remaining current and relevant to their context. They also contain the understanding that the government party will allow their personnel to act as technical assessors and/or participate in NATA’s committee and stakeholder activities.
For example, the all-of-government MOU between NATA and the Commonwealth deals with the exchange of information on matters of national interest where NATA’s role in facilitating a reliable test, measurement and inspection infrastructure is important such as in trade.
Other MOUs negotiated with individual government agencies may contain provisions for the exchange of information on poor performance of accredited facilities such that this could compromise the agency’s policy or regulatory objectives. For example, a number of MOUs with State Departments of Health focus on situations whereby public health and safety could be compromised. Under the provisions of these types of MOU, information provided may relate to a specific facility but is limited to the nature of the concern and its potential implications.
Deeds of Agreement are used for government agencies where there is a clearly identified national interest or public benefit in NATA providing detailed information about accredited facilities. Two examples of these are:
- Deed with the Department of Human Services relating to assessment of pathology laboratories where tests are eligible for Medicare rebates;
- Deed of Agreement with the Department of Agriculture relating to the provision of assessment reports and associated information for laboratories undertaking export meat testing and inspection bodies undertaking export carcass inspections.