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Audit opportunity for improvement raised to nonconformance months after the audit

jmech

Trusted Information Resource
#1
ISO 17021-2015 9.4.5.2 allows auditors to identify and record opportunities for improvement.

If an auditor records an opportunity for improvement, does ISO 17021 allow the CB to raise this to a nonconformance?

If so, is there any time limit for this, or can this still be done months after the end of the audit?
 
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Coury Ferguson

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Staff member
Super Moderator
#2
ISO 17021-2015 9.4.5.2 allows auditors to identify and record opportunities for improvement.

If an auditor records an opportunity for improvement, does ISO 17021 allow the CB to raise this to a nonconformance?

If so, is there any time limit for this, or can this still be done months after the end of the audit?
The CB Technical Team will review the report. If it is determined that an OFI was downgraded when it should be a nonconformity, they will most likely change it to reflect that, before the "final report." They would notify their client to let them know that an OFI was upgraded to a nonconformity.

There has been some Auditors that have downgraded a nonconformity to an OFI.

The way I see any OFI, that has been identified, I look at it as a potential nonconformity down the road. So I review all OFIs, and even respond to them, even though no response is required.

But that is my opinion, and how I handle OFIs.
 

howste

Thaumaturge
Super Moderator
#3
ISO 17021-2015 9.4.5.2 allows auditors to identify and record opportunities for improvement.

If an auditor records an opportunity for improvement, does ISO 17021 allow the CB to raise this to a nonconformance?

If so, is there any time limit for this, or can this still be done months after the end of the audit?
The CB is required to review the audit evidence submitted by the lead auditor. If the audit evidence submitted by the auditor shows that they wrote an OFI instead of a nonconformity, then the CB needs to take action to ensure that the nonconformity is addressed. I don't believe that this specific situation is addressed in ISO 17021-1:2015.

As far as timing, they would need to do it as part of 9.5.2 Actions prior to making a decision. Once a decision for a certificate has been made (grant, renew, suspend, maintain, etc.), there should be no changes. Timeliness is discussed in 4.5, but there are no specific time frames mentioned.

Did this happen to your organization?
 

Sidney Vianna

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Staff member
Admin
#4
CB,very likely, is over reacting because they were caught during an AB audit and written up for softgrading NC's.

Some CB's are even prohibiting the issuance of OFI's and observations because of that.
 

Golfman25

Trusted Information Resource
#5
In a third party audit situation there should be no such thing as OFI. They can't "consult" so all that means is you want to gum up my system. If I am not in conformance, show me the shall and tell me why. Otherwise move along. I'll improve my own system thank you very much.
 

Big Jim

Super Moderator
#6
At the heart of this is that OFIs and Observations are not related to Nonconformances. Actually they loosely are, but only in that they are audit findings, and audit findings can be positive, negative, or I suppose, even neutral.

Where people get in trouble is the belief that a nonconformance can be written up as a warning, somewhat like a policemen issuing a warning for a traffic infraction instead of a ticket.

That is called soft grading, and is forbidden. If it is a nonconformance it needs to be written up as a nonconformance.
 

jmech

Trusted Information Resource
#7
Thanks all for the informative responses. I agree that nonconformances should be written as such and not soft graded, and that opportunities for improvement should be addressed.

I'd just like to clarify one point from what Coury Ferguson and Howste said: should the audit report (including OFIs) be reviewed by the CB technical team and any OFIs upgraded before the report is finalized (normally within days after concluding the audit) or is the CB allowed to wait months to upgrade an OFI as long as this is still before the certification decision is made?
 

Sidney Vianna

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Admin
#8
or is the CB allowed to wait months to upgrade an OFI as long as this is still before the certification decision is made?
As Howste indicated, ISO 17021-1 does not really have much granularity on this aspect of the audit report review process.

The reality is: many technical reviewers don't have much time to perform a thorough review of all audit reports they "process". In the overwhelming majority of the times, they would not pay much attention to softgraded NC's. In a small percentage of the cases, they would identify the softgrading, slap the auditors' wrist and tell them to never do it again. In some cases, they would send a memo to their auditors reminding them of no softgrading allowance.

For a CB to escalate an OFI to a NC, months later, is extremely rare, because it creates problems for them and the registrant (their client). That's why the only plausible explanation I can think of is what I offered in my previous post. This CB is under external pressure to ensure they have stopped all softgrading in their audits, at the risk of having their accreditation suspended, if this is deemed a repeat offense by the AB. Even further, the audit report has already been read by the AB; otherwise, the CB would have told the auditor in question to revise the report and delete the OFI. Very likely this is part of a corrective action the CB has to implement to stop softgrading within their ranks.
 
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