Blog: How can you save money and time on your audit?

By building and maintaining a great relationship with your certifying body pre, during, and post-audit you will feel more comfortable making suggestions, you will create a tighter, more streamlined audit plan, and you will consequently spend less time and resources on your audit. This post gives you some practical tips on how to choose, and work constructively with, a certification body.


What to consider when choosing your certification body:

  1. Communication style: Different organisations have different methods of communicating, so understand what style suits your organisation best. For instance, is it better if you talk to a salesperson initially and then a dedicated client services officer, or would you prefer to speak directly to your auditor from the initial engagement to the end of the audit?
  2. Cost: Cost will vary between certification bodies. Understanding your certification body’s payment structure before you sign up can save you money. For example, paying per audit can often be more manageable than paying for the whole cycle upfront. If your site is rural or remote, make sure you ask whether the overall cost covers extras such as auditor airfares and accommodation.
  3. Flexibility: You can change your certification body at any time throughout the cycle (but not during an audit). There are no consequences for changing certification bodies, and your ingoing and outgoing bodies should make the transition as smooth as possible.

What to consider when planning your audit:

  1. Plan a pre-audit meeting: It’s an excellent idea to have a meeting with your certification body before you start to plan for your audit. Pre-meetings are useful for creating a plan, discussing any questions you might have and clarifying what information you need to provide your auditor. Possible topics of discussion include where records are kept, what sites you would like the auditor to visit and when, and which staff members are part-time so, if they have to, the auditor knows to schedule a meeting on that staff member’s workday. Pre-audit meetings also help the lead auditor understand how best to work with you. Meetings can be held online, in person or over the telephone.
  2. Tell the certification body about your organisational structure: It’s crucial to discuss your organisational structure and policies and procedures with your auditor. Organisational structures can be quite different across different organisations and, within your organisation, you may have different staff working with clients across very different service areas. You might also have crossover with some of your staff across different standards or different service areas. The more your certification body knows about your organisation beforehand, the more it can tailor your assessment plan.
  3. Tell your auditor about other certifications your organisation needs: Your auditor might be able to provide the audit for your additional certification/s or advise you if one audit can cover two certifications. They will also know if there is flexibility for an audit to be delayed slightly. For instance, the HSQF department might let you delay your HSQF certification to align it with an NDIS audit. When you can combine certifications, you don’t have to spend so much time focussing on audits, and staff are also able to see where standards align.

Where combining certifications doesn’t work or doesn’t work well, the following circumstances are probably present:

      • cycles don’t align, or they align with one assessment but not subsequent assessments
      • there are multiple main contacts across standards (this is a particular problem in larger organisations) or different staff contacts for different programs, so combining assessments may create confusion
      • there are some specific certifications that can’t be combined with others—your certification body will know what these are.
  1. Understand your auditor’s reporting requirements: There are different regulators for different standards. If you are having more than one audit done, your certification body will provide all the audit reports to you and send each report to the correct regulatory body.
  2. Consider how you want your audit to be conducted: Post COVID-19, it’s expected that your audit will be onsite. There may, however, be times when you can have a hybrid (part onsite and part online) or online only audit. Although this is unusual, if it’s something you would like, you should discuss it with your certification body. You can also talk to your auditor about where efficiencies may lie with site sampling. For instance, you could have an idea about which sites are best to meet which standards or you may have a new site you want audited. Your auditor might not be able to take up your recommendations, but if you don’t mention it, you won’t know.
  3. Combine meetings where possible: When going through the audit planning process, look at where there might be links between areas, so meetings on multiple topics can be combined. For instance, governance and HR issues can often overlap or you might have one staff member who manages multiple areas.

During your audit:

  • If you have questions during your audit, you should know who to direct them to: is it the lead auditor or client services officer? Check with your certification body about this beforehand.
  • Staff and clients should be aware of what meetings they need to attend.
  • If meetings at the start of an audit are postponed or if files aren’t immediately available there will be delays throughout the process.
  • If you are not sure what the auditor is asking for because of different lingo and systems, ask them!

Post audit:

  • Give feedback on the audit process; it’s really appreciated, and it’s often a lot easier after the audit is complete. You can provide feedback via phone or survey. Critical feedback will never impact the outcome of your audit.
  • Make sure you factor the following post-audit milestones into your planning: report delivery, auditor feedback and the deadline for corrections.
  • Open communication is important post-audit. If you are the main contact for an audit, and you take a break post audit, let your auditor know who they can talk to while you’re away. Likewise, tell your auditor if for some reason you won’t be available to talk to them after an audit.

Thank you to Lisa Esaias and Hannah Duggan from HDAA whose QCN presentation, “Developing a relationship with your certifying body”, provided the content for this blog.