The Central Forensics Bureau of Turkmenistan has recently received international accreditation in line with the main standard of the International Standardization Organization (ISO) for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories (17025).
The accreditation relates specifically to the analysis of alcohol in human blood and is a formal recognition of the competence demonstrated by the Turkmen laboratory in terms of forensic quality management and ability to produce valid results.
The accreditation follows the completion of a technical assistance initiative implemented by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) with financial support from the US State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).
The project followed a comprehensive approach to strengthen forensic services in Turkmenistan. Based on an initial needs assessment conducted in 2019, UNODC rolled out a package of interventions to develop forensic policies, introduce a new forensic quality management system and train forensic experts.
Roll out of a new forensic quality management system
Project activities covered the two main providers of forensic services in Turkmenistan, namely the Center for Criminological Research under the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Central Forensic Bureau under the Ministry of Health and Medical Industry.
To achieve alignment with ISO requirements, UNODC provided expert support to the Central Forensic Bureau in developing and facilitating the roll-out of a new management system for quality assurance.
In total, 27 standard operating procedures and 85 checklists were developed to guide the entire work process of the Bureau and ensure the quality and integrity of laboratory examinations.
New skills for Turkmen forensic experts
During a period of 2 years from 2020 to 2022, over 40 Turkmen forensic experts, including 14 women, passed an intensive training program, comprised of 6 training sessions to enhance their professional expertise and skills in managing evidence and crime scenes, ensuring quality, integrity and impartiality while carrying out laboratory tests and routine work in line with the ISO/IEC 17025 requirements.
Topics covered by the training program included validation of methods, reading and interpretation of the equipment metrics, use of control charts in laboratory tests and estimation of measurement uncertainty, risk management and corrective actions, internal audits and management review.
As a result of the training program, Turkmenistan now has a pool of skilled forensic experts able to conduct forensic analysis in line with the new quality management system. Training materials produced by the project continue to be used during regular on-the-job training.
Calibration, certified reference materials and proficiency testing
To strengthen and ensure the validity and accuracy of the Central Forensic Bureau’s laboratory examinations, UNODC supported the Bureau to acquire certified reference materials and get its laboratory glassware and measurement devices calibrated by an accredited, foreign calibration laboratory.
This enabled the Bureau to obtain consistent and precise data during tests and successfully pass proficiency testing exercises focused on the determination of alcohol and drugs in human fluids.
From 2020 to 2022, the Central Forensic Bureau took part in five rounds of UNODC’s International Collaborative Exercises (ICE), and two rounds of proficiency testing exercises provided by Collaborative Testing Services (USA) and LGC Standards (UK).
Accreditation under ISO/IEC 17025:2017
UNODC supported the development and implementation of an action plan to prepare the Central Forensic Bureau for accreditation. With the support of an international expert, the project conducted an audit of the Central Forensic Bureau to assess its compliance with the requirements of ISO/IEC 17025:2017.
The Central Forensic Bureau developed 2 methods to analyze alcohol in human fluids (blood), based on which it then sought accreditation. With UNODC support, in March 2023 the Kyrgyz Center for Accreditation visited the Central Forensic Bureau to carry out the necessary assessment of the laboratory procedures, personnel and technical capacity.
After the assessment, the Bureau undertook the necessary corrective actions recommended by the Kyrgyz Center for Accreditation. This included the calibration of laboratory scales and gas chromatograph. When the process was successfully completed in October 2023, the Central Forensic Bureau received the accreditation certificate, thus becoming the first Turkmen laboratory to achieve full compliance with ISO standards.
///UNODC ROCA, 17 November 2023