Audit Checklist with Answers

A checklist is used to compensate for the weakness of our human memory when we want to ensure consistency and completeness in carrying out a task. For example, we use checklists to remind us of important actions or to even plan a trip to the grocery store.

As auditors, we use checklists to remind us of the audit criteria against which we are to compare the audit evidence. In other words, we compare evidence (statements, observations, documents, and records) to the applicable requirements (customer, organization, standard, and legal).

To guide novice auditors, a typical checklist contains a suggested set of questions to determine if an area is conforming to the requirements. Unfortunately, the auditors often rigidly adhere to the list of questions and are unlikely to develop their own questions based upon the evidence.

And, when they hear reasonable answers to the canned questions, they may accept the responses and not recognize nonconforming situations. The typical checklist gives them the questions to ask, but does not provide the expected answers.

If you are an instructor giving an exam, you need the answer key to grade the responses. Likewise, an audit checklist should provide the expected answers to judge conformity. So, rather than listing only questions, we should use audit checklists with no questions, only the requirements and the expected evidence.

Auditors, even new auditors, can develop the basic questions on the fly to ask regarding the applicable requirements. By not providing the questions, each audit is unique and does a better job of sampling the area under audit. Identifying the expected evidence on the checklist helps the auditor decide if the statements made, operations observed, documents reviewed, and records examined are conforming.

As an example of a traditional checklist for the document control process, it would contain a question like, “Are the documents approved before they are issued?” The response might be, “Yes, I receive an email note from the document owner approving the document before I make it available.” That might sound like a reasonable response, especially if the auditee shows you records matching that practice.

However, with the proposed checklist, there would be no questions. Instead, under the Requirement column would be: “Approve documents before they are issued.” Under the Evidence column might be something like: “Document owner and quality manager must sign approval form, DC-01.1.”

Based upon the requirement listed, the auditor might ask, “How are documents approved?” If the same response was received, the auditor would see from the expected evidence that approval from the quality manager was missing and that the required form was not being used.

An audit checklist is a memory aid and confidence builder for an auditor. It helps the auditor stay focused on the audit objectives and scope. It helps ensure the audit criteria have been addressed. And, it is a repository for the auditor notes and becomes a record of the investigated areas