Is Microsoft certification a sham?

Some software companies make a big deal about being Microsoft certified. They wear the badge with pride and use it as a competitive point of difference. My questions are: Who ensures that the necessary skills are maintained to certification level? What is the difference for the customer? What checking is done by Microsoft to ensure that the deliverables from a certified company are better than those from a non-certified company?

I ask because there seems to be an opportunity to gain certification without the need to maintain the required skill level. If this is the case then one has to ask what the value of the badge actually is. It seems to me a bit like anyone being able to call themselves an accountant.

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