Performing Audit – Executing the plan and schedule of Audit Program


Performing Audit – Executing the plan and schedule of Audit Program

At this stage you are ready to start performing audit. The following stages are essential in this process:
• Opening The Performing Audit
• Managing Activity
• Gathering Evidence
• Attitude

performing auditOpening The Performing Audit Meeting – Outline Agenda
The opening meeting will set the scene for the overall audit and as such must deliver the required information such as:

• Introductions of the personnel on both sides
• Purpose and scope, defining the objectives
• Schedule of the audit
• Outline of administrative issues
• Methods for feedback of results
• Timing of the Closing Meeting
• Time to take Questions from the auditee

The tone of the meeting and the control exerted by the lead auditor will have an impact on the success of the audit. The lead auditor must present as a strong, but fair, chairperson at the meeting. The opening meeting provides an opportunity to clarify the expectations of both parties involved.

Opening Meeting Attendees
For an External Third \Party Audit, the following people need to be in attendance:

• Performing Audit Team from the independent auditors
• Guides and responsible people within the organization
• Senior management representation

For an Internal Audit the following people need to be at the opening meeting

• The selected Audit Team
• Representatives from the department that is to be audited
• Manager(s) of the department to be audited

Starting Off the Audit
Once the Opening Meeting has been held, the actual audit activities can get underway. It is important that the audit starts in an organized way; there is a need to manage first impressions! So the audit team needs to:

• Have all relevant documentation ready to roll
• Follow the plan & schedule
• Clearly identify the start point to the guide
• Once arrived at the start point – begin the audit
• Recognize and deal with any time wasting activity from the outset

Managing Your Activity as an Auditor
As an auditor there are several things that you will need to do to ensure that the audit will be effective and meet the objectives set:

• Identify and deal with time wasting, as time is most likely your most limited resource
• Don’t regard the checklists as the ‘only path’
• Let the guide ‘guide’ but not dictate the route
• Use the checklist to choose what documents you need to see for the scope of the audit
• Go under the ‘audit veneer’ and check in unexpected places
• Find objective evidence and secure it
• Make complete and cross-referenced notes

Remember that the activity you undertake as an auditor, the information gathered and evidence presented will directly impact any decisions made relating to the compliance or non-compliance of the organization to the audit standard. The effects of poor audit execution may be far reaching and damage not only your own reputation as an auditor but may severely damage the audited organizations business.

Gathering Objective Evidence
As an auditor it is your job to gather objective evidence, as this will form the basis of the audit results. Objective evidence has the following characteristics:

• It is fact based
• It is not an opinion
• It is supported
• It is true
• It is not a conclusion
• It is relevant to the overall context of the audit

Remember that the objective evidence must be able to stand up to scrutiny from external parties so you must as an auditor have complete faith in the fact that your evidence is objective.

Questioning Skills
To obtain evidence or basic information, an auditor needs to be able to design questions that will close an information gap. The questions will be categorised as:

• Open questions – designed to get detailed information
• Hypothetical questions – posing scenario based ‘what if’ type questions
• Probing – designed to allow the auditor to dig deeper into a topic
• Reflective questions – allows the auditor to check their understanding
• Closed Questions – require just yes or no answers
Questions are what the auditor uses to control the direction and flow of information during the audit process. Questions that are effective tend to be:

• Understandable
• Relevant
• Logical
• Professional
• Focused

Observations

The auditor has two ears, two eyes and one mouth and they should be used in that proportion:

• Two ears – to listen for and capture all information that is coming as noise!
• Two eyes – to see what is going on around the facility
• One mouth – to ask questions and control the process accordingly

Observations can include

• Appearance of the facility
• Attitude to the audit
• Evidence of ‘audit veneer’
• Housekeeping
• Morale of employees
• Signage
• Condition of equipment

Note-taking while performing Audit
When an observation is made or objective evidence is found the auditor needs to be able to capture it in his or her notes immediately. Characteristics of useful notes:

• Clear
• Logical
• Relevant
• Complete
• Secure
• Referenced

These notes form the basic reference material from which the audit decisions are made. It is therefore exceptionally important that the auditor ensures that the notes remain with them at all times or are located in a secure environment. If notes are mislaid or taken then the audit may be compromised and have to be aborted.

Aborting PerformingvAudit
Aborting an audit is rare but may be necessary if:

• The number of non-conformances is very high
• The audit objectives are compromised
• There is little or no evidence of a quality system being implemented
• Uncooperative or aggressive behavior by the personnel from the auditee

The aborting of an audit may have severe implications for the organization being audited, especially if the reason is that significant non-conformances are found early in the audit. The decision to abort must therefore be made very carefully, with full cognizance taken of the implications to the organization and in some cases to the auditor as well.

Performing Audit Team Meetings
It is crucial for the Audit Team to maintain contact during the audit programme – having audit team meetings can most effectively do this. The effectiveness of the meetings is dependent upon the following characteristics:

• Plan time in program for meetings
• Share information across the team
• Use the meeting to highlight any problems that are being experienced while performing audit
• Change the plan if necessary
• Begin to construct the bones of the report on the audit findings
• Have a strict agenda and time span for each meeting
• Involve every auditor
• Minute the meetings

The chairperson for the team meetings, usually but not always the team leader, must ensure that the meetings are effective tools for the audit team. This means that the meetings must be conducted in a way that is action oriented and inclusive.

Effective Auditor Attitude
The audit is essentially an interactive process between the auditor and the auditee. As such the effect of attitude cannot be emphasised enough. The auditor must ensure that their attitude is:

• Professional.
• Courteous.
• Helpful.
• Respectful.
• Energetic.
• Enthusiastic.
• Positive.

The audit is dependent primarily upon the auditors and their success is dependent to a large degree on their attitude displayed during the audit. With the characteristics defined above, the auditor will have the disposition to perform well in the audit.

Auditee Tactics

Auditees will use certain tactics to slow, or in some cases actually stop, the audit process. These may include:

• Taking over the opening meeting with a long-winded and unnecessary corporate presentation
• Taking the ‘scenic route’ to the audit zone
• Very slow retrieval of documents requested by the auditor
• Inability to track personnel required for questioning
• Provision of a very poor guide
• Directing the auditor to where the auditee wants them to go and keeping them there
• In depth discussions, which exclude the auditor, about trivial or unnecessary details

The auditor is usually aware that a stalling technique is being applied and can reference the schedule or the scope of the audit to move ahead. In cases where the tactics used are not stopped when the auditor requests that they are discontinued, then it may be necessary to bring the issue to the attention of the lead auditor immediately and have the incident dealt with at a higher level.

The use of auditee tactics to stall an audit relates back to the traditional view of audits and certainly prevents the audit from achieving any constructive momentum. It is the responsibility of the auditor to deal effectively with whatever situation presents itself during the audit.
The new view of the audit process is a positive one that will lead to adding value. The auditee can contribute to this by:

• Being ready for the audit
• Looking on the audit as a positive experience
• Co-operating with the auditor
• Arguing a case when relevant
• Providing access to all relevant personnel and documentation for the scope of the audit
• Providing realistic and implementable corrective actions when they need to be identified
• Providing a knowledgeable and professional guide

The Auditor from Hell!
As with any profession, auditing will have its share of ‘bad’ auditors. The definition of bad may differ from – poor attitude, to lack of knowledge, to lack of auditing skills. The following are characteristics that would be found in an ‘auditor from Hell’.

• Has pre-formed opinions before the audit and works to confirm them!
• Exhibits aggressive and bullying behaviour towards the personnel he or she interacts with
• Poor data capture habits therefore doesn’t have many facts
• Makes conclusions on the spot
• More interested in catching the auditee out as opposed to helping them

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