Audit Program – Planning and Scheduling the Audit

Planning and Scheduling the Audit Program

Let’s begin planning the audit program. The following stages are essential in this process:
• Planning
• Scheduling
• Documentation
• Constraints

audit programAs with most planning activities, the aim of having a plan is to maximise return on the resources expended. Remember – failing to plan is planning to fail. The plan is the roadmap for the audit and as such needs to be very definitely tied in to the overall scope and objectives of the audit.
The audit program plan must cover all the stages as previously discussed from pre- to post-audit.

The audit program plan should be:

• Clearly understandable by ALL involved
• Logical
• Functional
• Realistic
• Communicated effectively
• Based on well-defined measurable objectives

Typical issues covered by the plan would be

• Explanation of why the audit is taking place
• When the audit will take place
• Where the audit will take place
• Duration / Schedule of the audit
• What the preparation will involve
• What the key audit activities will be
• Who will be involved in the audit and what their roles and responsibilities will be

Scheduling the Audit
The schedule is dependent upon a number of factors:

• Time available to the audit team
• Objectives of the audit
• Scope of the audit
• Complexity of the audit activity
• Availability of personnel who need to be involved
• Location and layout of the facility being audited

Without a well-defined schedule, the audit may not be completed to a satisfactory standard due to a lack of time or loss of access to personnel or processes because the window of opportunity for contacting them has closed. The schedule is therefore a vital part of the audit plan and needs to be clearly communicated to and understood by, all who are involved in the audit. The schedule may be amended as the audit progresses if issues arise that either require more or less time than had originally been anticipated.

Audit Documentation
As with any process, there is a requirement for documentation in the audit process. The audit process has a requirement for documentation as follows:

• Quality Manual
• Standards / reference guides
• Audit plan
• Audit checklists
• Business information on the auditee
• Information on past audits, especially focusing on corrective actions for previous non-conformances

This documentation must be available to the audit team so that the information contained therein will be used to increase the effectiveness of the audit.

Audit Checklists
Checklists are used as the guidance tool for the auditor to ensure that the full scope is covered. Checklists may be generated as:

• Criteria based: The criteria laid down in the standard form the basis of questions which will check conformance
• Departmental based: The checklist questions are designed around a core process or activity
Characteristics for an effective checklist would be:

• Focused short questions
• Logical sequencing
• Comprehensive in coverage
• Understandable in terms of the language used
• Set in the context of the audit
• Have traceability build in

Audit Checklist Sections

A typical section format for a checklist might be:

• Audit subject / number
• Auditor identification
• Organization / Department to be audited
• Date & time
• Reference documents
• Requirement reference
• Questions
• Space for notes / evidence

The checklist would be designed and used as a standard document for the audit so that the information and activities was presented in a consistent and functional way.

Preparing an Audit Checklist
When preparing an audit checklist the following must be taken into consideration to make it an actionable and applicable checklist:

• Working knowledge of the various procedures, contracts and standards that are involved
• Focus on specific areas as defined by the scope
• Identify who should be asked what
• Bear in mind the objectives of the audit and match the checklist to provide information to allow these objectives to be met
• Construct meaningful questions

Constraints on the Audit Checklist
When designing the checklist, there are several constraints to be taken into account such as:

• Time – there is a need to make every question count, as time is usually a limiting factor
• Personnel availability to answer the questions needs to be taken into account
• Knowledge and experience of the auditor

The linkage to relevant documentation such as the standard against which the audit is being made needs to be apparent.

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