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10 Steps to Maximize Effectiveness of Internal Audits

20 January 2017

Often the focus of Internal Audits gets lost in the day to day running of organizations. This article helps to break down step by step what you should be considering when planning & conducting audits.

Having conducted internal audits throughout my career and now as an external auditor; these are the steps that now on reflection will help you maximize the effectiveness of internal audits:

1. Make sure that you receive the required training in order to be able to conduct an internal audit. Make sure the training that you require has been put into the training budget for your company.

2. Ensure you know & understand what internal audits have been assigned to you on the schedule. If not speak to the person that put the schedule together. Block out sufficient time in your calendar to ensure that you have more than enough time to prepare and conduct the audit.

3. Inform the auditees as far in advance as is reasonably practical and agree a time and duration with them of the opening meeting, audit and closing meeting. Outlook meeting requests could be sent for example to book the time.

4. Review the last audit report:

  • Make sure any previous findings have been closed out.

  • If not follow them up in your audit.

  • If time permits, review the effectiveness of any corrective actions that had been implemented for any previous findings.

  • If possible try to sample a different area of the process that was audited previously.

  • Try to select different people, machines, procedures, records, customers, suppliers etc that was looked at previously.

5. Write a checklist to guide you through what you want to audit, which will help you to stick to what you planned and not to be put off by a strong minded auditee. Try to use process based auditing. Click here for information on process based auditing.

6. It’s always a good idea to hold a brief opening meeting with departmental manager and auditee(s) to cover:

  • Introduce yourself

  • What is being audited

  • Scope of the audit

  • If it’s a part of the business that you’re not familiar with, ask for an overview of the process

  • Check if there is anything unusual happening in the area that you plan to audit that you should be aware of

  • Confirm PPE requirements especially if it’s a part of the business that you’re not familiar with

  • Noting that the departmental manager attended or nor could be used to demonstrate the extent of leadership in that area

  • You may wish to review the previous findings at this meeting too.

7. Conduct the audit:

  • Try to put your auditees at ease:

    • i.It’s likely that they could be nervous, which won’t help you.

    • ii.Don’t just launch into your checklist the moment that you meet them with ‘Right, can you show me….’

    • iii.Introduce yourself and just talk informally to the auditee about what they do?

  • Be prepared to deviate from your planned check list if an audit trail appears that could lead to a finding, or identify an improvement that has been made

  • Be aware of your surroundings and try to take in what is going on

  • Stopping from time to time and just having a look all round can both help to pace the audit and give you time to really see the process

  • Take lots of notes. Find out what suits you best e.g. clip board, pad etc

  • If allowed take photographs of documents that you want to review in detail later, if a picture would describe an NC much better than a description in your report

  • Always remember that your notes will be used to write your report

  • If you come across a finding, it’s essential that you get your auditee to understand and agree to the finding. You may need to explain it in a different way. The discussion may require to escalated to who is responsible for what you are auditing and have them agree to the finding.

8. Write up your report. Try to do this immediately after you do the audit as it will be still fresh in your mind and you should still be able to make sense of your notes

9. Initiate corrective action reports if required.

10. Have a closing meeting:

  • Thanks all auditees for their time

  • Present an executive summary

  • Highlight any positive points from the audit

  • Present the findings

  • Issue corrective action reports to be completed to address the findings. Ensure the corrective action report covers:

    • i.Immediate Containment Action – to stop the problem getting bigger

    • ii.Root cause – Why did it happen? Use a technique like ‘5 Why’s’

    • iii.Corrective Action – action to prevent a recurrence of the finding

    • iv.Follow up Verification – Check if all the items proposed in the corrective action were carried out and check the effectiveness of the corrective action

    • Click here for more information on an Effective Correction Action Plan

Author: Joe Kelly, NQA Assessor