As we discussed in last week’s article, auditors often find themselves in situations where attempts are made to bamboozle them, frustrate the process or otherwise bring the whole audit to a standstill.
Over the last 20 years we have had our fair share of experiences in having to navigate the roadblocks some clients have placed in our way during the audit process.
The purpose of this blog is to build on last week’s article and look into more of the obstacles and roadblocks we have encountered. This is part two of a three part series, in part one we discussed time wasting tactics, in this article, we will be looking at the challenges to the audit scope of work.
Common Challenges To The Audit Scope
The client fails to brief each specific site as to the audit requirements, so the auditee (site level) protests the scope of work during the opening meeting, consuming copious amounts of time.
At one of our recent audits, the scope of work was to assess implementation of phases 1 and 2 of a remediation plan at several sites. However the corporate client did not convey this to the sites, resulting in a protracted internal dispute which impacted on the time available for the audit. We felt this was a deliberate tactic.
The auditee decides not to allow you to review pertinent records as part of the audit process, because they claim you require a specific security clearance to view this information.
During the same audit, a secondary stalling tactic was applied once the audit commenced. Once the scope battle had been lost, the auditee advised that whilst they were willing to participate in the audit process, their department could not provide objective evidence because our team didn’t possess the appropriate security clearances to view the information.
The auditee deliberately tries to steer you off track and starts discussing other matters, well outside the agreed scope of work, e.g. HR Industrial Matters.
For example, the auditee is often well aware that they have gaps in their process, and can become quite defensive when asked to produce objective evidence to support their claims. Sometimes, they turn this around and try to deflect our questioning by raising irrelevant personal HR grievances. This is to consume time and throw the auditor off track.
The auditee selects a timeframe for the audit at a time when the site is running at 30% normal capacity.
This reduces the auditor’s ability to sample according to the agreed scope. “Oh, sorry, the line is not running today. This will be in operation next week when we are up to full capacity”. Auditees know that gaps are highlighted during peak operational activity, so they mitigate this risk by bringing the auditor in during quite operating times.
The auditee tries to dictate your sample group, cleverly avoiding the plant and equipment or personnel that they know will show up the gaps.
Our auditors are frequently chaperoned by client representatives. The guys know where the old plant and equipment resides so they deliberately steer you away from old equipment and show you with pride the new technology, hoping that will wow you.
Strategies To Avoid Confusion
- Always provide a detailed scope of work prior to arriving on site. This ultimately helps the audit progress in a smoother and quicker manner for everyone and avoids unwanted surprises for both parties.
- Obtain confirmation from the client that they understand and accept the scope of work you will be undertaking. As mentioned above, providing a detailed scope of work is essential but it is also vital that this is agreed to by the client, prior to commencing the on-site audit activity so everyone is on the same page upon your arrival.
- Stay focused. If you feel you are being led off track, steer the audit back to relevant matters by reminding clients about the scope of work you agreed prior to arrival.
- Be Assertive. Auditors must follow a very disciplined approach and be assertive to keep the audit process on track.
Being clear about expectations is the key to the auditor being in control and avoiding roadblocks rather than the auditee. You are there to complete a complex task in what can often be a stressful and defensive environment. Being firm, focused, fair and clear will assist in letting the auditee know what’s expected and will assist with overcoming any bumps in the road along the way.