Audits

Converting the audit quality practices to system-centred rather than individual-auditor-centred

When we talk about “audit quality practises,” we talk about the factors that influence the outcomes of audits conducted on behalf of a regulatory body, such as the behaviour of auditors, the decisions they make, the approaches they take and the way they act in order to ensure that audit outcomes are appropriate, suitable, relevant, and based on facts rather than personal opinions and biases against an individual or organisation.

In this article, we discuss a number of the components of audit quality practises that are important to consider.

Standards to audit the regulatory body and its officers

The million-dollar questions are: who audits the auditors, and can they achieve consistency in their decisions? Despite the fact that some government agencies are auditing some of their actions, the vast majority of the judgments and practises of the regulatory body go unnoticed and unanswered to anyone. A clear set of standards should be established for the regulatory body, and clear guidelines should be developed for their auditors. The audit practices, boundaries and guidelines should also be clearly defined.

External complaints resolution department

How can genuine complaints be resolved when the freedom of information (FOI) and complaints handling are controlled by the same individual and department within ASQA? Yes, these approaches are acceptable for a brief period of time in order to conceal malpractices, but for how long will they remain hidden from the rest of the industry? How can a regulatory agency establish confidence with its stakeholders if there is no credible external entity to evaluate and review its operations and procedures? On paper, the Ombudsman is there to investigate their decisions; yet, how many times have they made decisions that were against the regulating body? Where are those statistics and how do those decisions make the regulatory body change their practices? Complaints and feedback from stakeholders are opportunities to improve the system, framework, and processes. If you ignore investigating complaints and feedback from stakeholders or just have blind faith in what your auditors tell you, then you will never be able to improve any practices.

Professional development workshops for auditors

Workshops for professional development are essential for everyone in the sector, and auditors are no exception. As representatives of a government agency, they hold a position of authority and influence. As a result, they require far more professional development and personal development sessions than anybody else working in the education and training industry. Regular professional development workshops would assist them in understanding how they should strictly adhere to regulatory rules rather than rely on their own personal judgments, prejudices, and opinions to make audit decisions.

Internal validation and moderation meetings

Internal validation and moderation meetings for audit outcomes and practices are required in order to establish high-quality audit practices. Decisions should be made in accordance with what the system suggests, rather than what the individual recommends. In order to train the auditors on what can and cannot be accepted in a black and white manner, set templates, policies, practices and protocols should be used. The outcome of these moderation meetings should be shared with the industry in order to inform them of what was discussed, which tactics were changed, and why and how the strategies will affect the training organisations in question. Every time a new auditor audits the processes and documentation of a training organisation, the results should not be a surprise to the training organisation or consultants representing them in the audit.

Audit reports

The audit reports should not only cover non-compliances, but they should also include where the compliance has been found. In a number of instances, the same auditor has made different judgments over a period of a few weeks, and this type of activity should be considered unacceptable by any regulatory authority.

When it comes to audit reports, the most important purpose is to have reasonable certainty that the report as a whole is free of any misrepresentation and errors; and to ensure that any noncompliance issues that are identified are clearly reported to all parties through the audit report.

In order to ensure that all stakeholders have faith in the system and are fully informed, the quality of audit reports is vital to an effective and efficient regulatory system. The purpose of audit quality procedures is to instil confidence in the correctness and dependability of audit practises. It is vital that audit quality and consistency of audit execution be consistently enhanced in order to retain public confidence in the regulatory system.

These are just a few of the critical improvements that must be included in the new regulatory framework to ensure its success. What other changes would you like to see implemented in audit activities? Write to us and tell us about your experiences interacting with the regulatory body and your thoughts on the matter.

We are interested in listening to your suggestions, feedback and stories, please email us at info@caqa.com.au.

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