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Thursday, 10 June 2010

What is an Internal Audit?

I am often asked this question and I always use the shorthand answer "A check to see that you do what you say".  This sounds simple, and so it is, if carried out correctly.

The first requirement is that the person(s) carrying out the audit actually know what they are doing.  The various standards specify that  persons carrying out audits must have received training are competent to do so.  This normally requires attendance at a recognised course of training which is based on the quality/environmental standard ISO19011:2002.   Our own course fills this requirement and is normally held twice a year in Spring and Autumn.

The routine of the audit starts with notification to your organisation that an audit is to be carried out and on what date.  It makes good sense to give at least a months notice to ensure the people you need to audit are available.

The first part of the audit is to carry out a document review to see if the quality/environmental manual exists and covers the requirements of the standards.  Once this is successful you can then concentrate on the company processes.

The audit proper starts with an opening meeting where you can prepare the organisation for the audit and explain how this is going to proceed.  It is an essential part of the audit and sets the scene for the work.

An audit checklist helps to keep the auditor on track and prevents things being missed.

The audit of the organisation processes looks at the process and compares it with the actual work being carried out.  They should be the same.  Look for evidence that this is so.

Any non-conformities should be recorded and any actions proposed by the auditee.

Non-conformities  are classified as Major or Minor; Major nonconformity is one where  a whole part or a significant part of a process is missing or not being followed. Minor nonconformities occur where someone has slipped up or something which is usually compliant has been missed.

Once the process audit has been completed a closing meeting is held to discuss the findings of the audit.

And finally an audit report is produced.

Sound straight forward, but I am constantly amazed at the standard of auditing, particularly by untrained auditors, who usually have no idea that the effort they have expended has little or no value.

Answer:  Train the auditor and get the auditor to carry out frequent audits to hone their skills.
........................................Simples (as the advert says).

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