Ten Tips for Selecting and Using a Consultant – 7. Remind auditors how to verify conformity

Internal auditors often rely just upon documents and records as evidence of process conformity and don’t adequately interview personnel and observe operations.

After determining the audit criteria (requirements), objective evidence should be gathered in four different ways for more complete and effective audits:

1. Interview personnel

Based on your audit planning and checklist questions, ask employees about their jobs. Listen to what they tell you. See if their explanations match the defined process. Use open-ended questions to elicit more complete responses.

2. Observe operations

Aid your own understanding of the process by watching it be performed. See if the observed practices comply with requirements. You will discover the persons being interviewed are more relaxed when you let them demonstrate their jobs. In addition, internal audits will be less disruptive since work is actually being completed.

3. Review documents

Ask the persons being interviewed what documents are used in their work. You may find documents and forms beyond those identified in your audit planning. See if the documents are adequately controlled and available for use. Refer to the documents to help you follow the work being shown. Verify the records described in the documents are being properly collected and controlled.

4. Examine records

When you interview people and observe operations, you are determining how the process is currently being performed. However, you also want to verify the process has been compliant since the last audit. The best way to evaluate prior practices is to examine the records from past operations.

The facts uncovered using these methods should be carefully recorded in your audit notes. Analyze this evidence to report the degree of conformity (or nonconformity).

Auditors cannot interview every person, observe every activity, look at every document, and evaluate every record. You should strive for representative samples that allow you to make informed judgements. Since audits are limited due to sampling, nonconformities may continue to exist in the system beyond those identified and reported.