Most contemporary audit programs advocate a combination of internal and external auditing. There are pros and cons involved in either type of audit, but both play an important role in ensuring best practice, continual improvement and compliance.
Internal auditing should never be undertaken by someone who was involved in authoring the management system or process being audited, nor undertaken by the manager responsible for the area concerned. A new set of eyes and a new perspective are essential.
Some organisations address this issue by having a schedule whereby HSEQ professionals move between audit teams or sites that are not their usual areas. This provides a degree of benefit, but may not be fully effective due to the issue of ‘organisational blindness’ and an acceptance of problematic issues as being part of the organisation’s customs and practice. The internal HSEQ professional may unknowingly be impacted by a limited exposure to alternate or external practices or the audit process itself.
In contrast, an independent, external auditor knows what to look for during interviews and field observations, and can pinpoint root causes, bringing an external point-of-view drawn from their years of experience. However, they may be lacking a full understanding of the operational context, the intricacies of the business and the thought process behind the various risk controls.
There is valuable potential for the organisation to be able to learn from an external auditor, but there is a need to ensure that the external auditor is also open to being educated by the organisation. If the external auditor is ‘stuck in their ways’, trapped by the belief that they already know the solution, and see their role as promoting the implementation of that preconceived solution, the benefit they bring as an external and objective auditor is undermined.
The most valuable outcome for the organisation is achieved by taking advantage of the benefits of both internal and external audit processes, while taking steps to avoid the pitfalls.
Please contact QRMC for more information or to discuss our approach to auditing face-to-face, obligation free.