How to conduct internal audits in your organization?

ISO 9001:2015 covers meaningful and effective requirements for the internal audit. According to ISO 9000, Audit is a, “Systematic, independent and documented process for obtaining objective evidence and evaluating it objectively to determine the extent to which audit criteria are fulfilled”. Here we’’ discuss about the system audit or QMS audit for ISO 9001 only.

To conduct the effective internal audit, which could deliver improvement-oriented results to your organization, entire audit program should be well planned. Following the PDCA approach in audit process will help us much to manage it. Planning for the internal audit process is an important task and should be start in the early stage. Therefore, that other stakeholder can also plan their activities according to audit schedule. Well coming to the point, before initiating the internal audit, in-charge person should be aware about the frequency of audit and last conducted audit date. Preferably, internal audit should be conducted once or twice in a year. Further planning of audit includes preparation of plan for audit and its approval from senior authority. Prepared plan may include but not limited to scope of the audit (locations, functions, activities and processes to be audited), Dates for the audits for various departments, location of audit, Lead auditor accompanied by other internal auditors etc. such plan would then be circulated to all respective departments, at least two weeks prior to audit.

Generally, what happens is, any department representative if have any concern regarding audit plan, audit in-charge can sort it out and make change, which is adaptable to all. Early sharing of plan also gives enough time to department representatives to be prepared and consolidate or manage all required particulars for the upcoming audit. Now, meanwhile in-charge will inform and grant the permission of auditors who will audit the allocated function in your organization.

Once agreed by all, shared plan will become final schedule for the audit and all representatives has to be ready for audit and should make all possible efforts to make a successful audit program. As we know, audit will take significant time of all concerned departments and its people, so it is always anticipated that audit program delivers fruitful results. One thing which organization has to ensure that is, all assigned auditors should be competent and trained enough to perform the audit and find the scope of improvement. One should not audit his/her own function to ensure the objectivity and the impartiality of the audit process. Auditor should perform their work ethically, with honesty and responsibility. All required should be available to conduct a good internal audit. On the day of audit, it should start with opening meeting.

An opening meeting should be held with the management and, where appropriate, those responsible for the functions or processes to be audited. During the meeting, an opportunity to ask questions should be provided to others. During the audit, the audit team leader should periodically communicate the progress, any significant findings and any concerns to the auditee, as appropriate. Evidence collected during the audit that suggests an immediate and significant risk should be reported without delay to the auditee. The auditors should record nonconformities and their supporting audit evidence.

At the end of the audit, held closing meeting and review the audit findings, any other appropriate information collected during the audit, against the audit objectives and agree on the audit conclusions. The audit team leader should report the audit conclusions in accordance with the audit programme. The audit report should provide a complete, accurate, concise and clear record of the audit. The audit report should be issued within an agreed period of time. If it is delayed, the reasons should be communicated to the auditee and the in-charge of the audit programme.

Auditors may complete the audit, when all planned audit activities have been carried out, or as otherwise agreed with the auditee. Unless required by law, the audit team and the in-charge of the audit programme should not disclose any information obtained during the audit. It is also important to evaluate the effectiveness of the entire audit program along with the scope of improvement that were recognized while the audit. All function representatives should take appropriate actions on identified nonconformities and improvement of business process.