This is the very question that we collectively examined on the 15th September 2022 at Inmarsat’s headquarters in London when the CQI’s (Charted Quality Institute) Audit SIG (Special Interest Group) gathered along with industry experts and colleagues from around the world, utilising a hybrid format whereby people attended in person, or online via Webex. Chaired by William Rankin (Inmarsat), the SIG committee developed an inclusive programme with presenters and contributors from across the globe and from diverse industries ranging from Pharma, Financial, Construction, Engineering and Telecoms to name a few…
It was proposed that the audit profession is rapidly transforming, accelerated by both pandemic and economic events, the future of auditing conference considered a number of themes, such as Governance, Assurance, Audit Practice, Competence, Sustainability, Context and Quality 4.0, with expert opinions presented on the day and virtually from around the world including from USA, Portugal and Greece. Demonstrations of audit technologies and arousing conversions about immersive, AI technologies and the changing face of the auditor and audit team, including data analysts and behavioural psychologists who are now envisaged to fulfil an important role in the future of auditing.
With representation from UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service) on the day, it was acknowledged that the format for audits is no longer entirely constrained to on site face to face engagements and the UKAS Technical Guidance Document TPS 74 UKAS guidance on the use of a blended approach to auditing of management systems by Certification Bodies (Edition 2, December 2021), was developed with stakeholder support to reflect the new normal where a Hybrid approach may be applicable to Management Systems Auditing. For more information on this new norm, you can find more information in the recent (04 October 2022) Technical Bulletin ‘Management Systems Auditing in a post pandemic Environment’.
At the ‘future of auditing’ conference SCS Director, Tony Duff, presented within the theme of Governance, espousing the benefits of standards and the audit function, reflecting on both the contribution that ‘audit’ has made for wider society and also, on the areas of underperformance in which further progress is required.
Key out takes in audit benefits included; the improvements in air travel safety, reduced accident occurrences in GB, enhanced food safety confidence, better surgery outcomes, and ultimately mean improvements in the standards of living and continuing increase in the life expectancy at birth for global peoples.
Case studies and examples of client feedback were also used to demonstrate the practical application of audits and the benefits delivered. A paper by the International Organisation for Standardisation published in 2012, looked at 12 organisations in their International Case Studies Volume 2 and noted that the Economic benefits of standards ranged for 0.08% to 9.20% of Sales Revenue and the individual cases cited a number of areas that generated the benefits as illustrated in the figure, noting that processes were improved and performance was confirmed, as a result of audit.
When organisations wish to validate and/or verify the effectiveness and efficiency of their internal processes, one way in which they can do this is by external independent evaluation or assessment by an accredited certification body using the relevant management system standard as the audit criteria upon which to assess conformity and continual improvement. Inherent and embedded within the certification approach is the use of ‘auditing’ as a tool for checking that processes and system meet and continue to deliver planned outcomes.
Andy Dealy, the Estates Operations Manager for NI Hospice utilises and is subject to both internal and external audit and is clear about the benefits to governance. The organisation, Northern Ireland Hospice, has been delivering palliative care to local people across Northern Ireland for over 35 years and so the organisation makes a real difference to both the people experiencing end of life and the wider family circles.
‘In delivering our service in support of the clinical staff we need to be proactive in assuring the safety and comfort of our residents. By aspiring for better management of systems, audit of our internal controls provided better oversight of our compliance and regulatory conformance whilst identifying gaps in our service which could be improved to both reduce risk and increase efficiency. Using 3rd party audit services provided us with reassurance that our processes where suitably established to promote the systematic approach required to manage the ongoing change within our organisation in response to our evolving stakeholder’s needs.’ Andy Dealy, Estates Operations Manager.
‘Research is concerned with discovering the right thing to do; audit with ensuring it is done right’
Smith, R. Audit and Research. BMJ 1992: Vol 305, 905