Auditor's Dilemma

Dr. L. Ramakrishnan

Forum Moderator
Moderator
#1
Even since I started "auditing" outside my company this aspect has been bothering me; in fact I got a non-conformance, during a witness audit, for suggesting to an auditee to look at a Government site for information on legislation. I am referring to the "sin" of being a "consultant" during audits.

I have been auditing and assessing for more than twenty five years. I enjoyed "suggesting", "advising", "guiding" my colleagues in our company during the audits which resulted in improvements. I thought that was a good contribution to the organization from a resource person. No one complained.

The whole concept changed once the nature of audit changed to second or third party audit; I have been told that I could not be a consultant during the audit. Even small suggestions and advise are supposed to be taboos.

Given the type of organizatons and auditees I come across, I believe that it is my duty to provide them information for improvement; that is one of the value additions of an audit. As far as I am clear in my mind that I don't have any commercial interest in the suggestion/advise, why should I stop adding value to the organization that I assess/audit ?

Here are a few typical examples of questions asked to me during an assessment/audit:

a) Where do I get this information ?
b) Which University provides this course ?
c) What should I do to meet the requirement ?
d) Can you suggest a good book on the subject ?
e) What is the procedure to become a member of ......... (a professional body)?
f) Please suggest a better method to carry out................(some activity)
etc.

I believe, in a country like India, where knowledge sharing is an important element of development, I cannot duck under the auditing norms and deny the opportunity to improve.

At the end of the day, I have a satisfaction of conducting an objective audit, where the relationship between the auditor and auditee was one of trust, respect and satisfaction. The client does not complain; he needs more such interactions.

I, therefore, believe that classifying "consulting" during audit as a "Strict No" should be revisited and reviewed; the element of "conflict of interest" should be dealt with in the "Code of Conduct" for an auditor; as far as there is no clash of interest, (s)he should be allowed to share knowledge during audits/assessments.
 

somashekar

Super Moderator
Staff member
Super Moderator
#2
When all such questions are collected and after the final closing meeting, if the interested persons and the auditor have a high-tea discussion before windup and bye bye, would that still be consulting by auditor, and pulled up ... ?
I agree the flow of audit must not be interrupted by question and discussions as in your typical examples of questions.
 

Dr. L. Ramakrishnan

Forum Moderator
Moderator
#3
Thank you Somashekar.

Technically the audit is over only when the final audit report is submitted to the client.

As for the "flow of audit", my experience is that such interventions help me to conduct the audit effectively and efficiently. Such interactions help the auditee to open up and be transparent in his/her interaction with me.
 

somashekar

Super Moderator
Staff member
Super Moderator
#4
An auditor is a resource person first whose main business during the audit session is to do a fair audit. I agree that you have a comfort level as you have explained, however answering to such questions will divert the attention of the auditee, and make him look upon the auditor more as an instructor / trainer. I feel the best would be to ask them to keep any such questions for the end session.
Technically, yes., I agree that the audit process concludes with the final audit report. Keeping this, it is not wise on the auditor to build a wall preventing other interactions apart from the audit proceedings.
Knowledge is not power, use of knowledge is power. So what use of the knowledge of the auditor if he cannot share such with people who seek. For me, the matter is all about timing, and the ability to share knowledge same time not sounding a trainer or a consultant.
There are many who also ask auditors their cell # / e-mail (personal mail) for asking questions later. Heeding to this is more like consultant, and does not look a fair-play.
Keeping distance and respecting time, knowing what is sharing useful information and what is consulting and professionally interacting with auditee (company interested personnel) must be fine I believe ...
 

Dr. L. Ramakrishnan

Forum Moderator
Moderator
#6
Just returned from an assessment of an organization known for the quality of its products; the organization is certified to QMS, EMS and OHSAS. My dilemma continued; I ended up spending quite some time "educating" the core group. I am sure that the assessment process did not suffer.
 
G

Guest

Guest
#7
Well I am an Assessor as well as an Auditee for long many years. I have always found this tendency among the Indian Auditors, who are too keen to educate the auditee. Auditee, either from ignorance or to avoid further 'questioning', accepts the suggestion of the auditor. Being an MR, I had to issue instructions to the auditees in my company that no one should implemen the suggestion unless discussed internally within the department as well as the MR. Auditor should not forget that it is the job of Auditee to run his/her own business. Therefore, the auditee should have his own solutions to the requirements of the system. In fact, the auditing protocols make this very clear. I have found sometimes very ill founded advices offered by the Auditor, as he doesn't fully understand the job. I still wonder and sometime take it up with the auditors as well, as to what pleasure the auditor is having by doing someone else's job and failing in his own assigned job, i.e. auditing. My humble request to all auditors is to stick to their own job, as it is also a very serious activity.
 

Dr. L. Ramakrishnan

Forum Moderator
Moderator
#8
S K Jaiswal;bt986 said:
Well I am an Assessor as well as an Auditee for long many years. I have always found this tendency among the Indian Auditors, who are too keen to educate the auditee. Auditee, either from ignorance or to avoid further 'questioning', accepts the suggestion of the auditor. Being an MR, I had to issue instructions to the auditees in my company that no one should implemen the suggestion unless discussed internally within the department as well as the MR. Auditor should not forget that it is the job of Auditee to run his/her own business. Therefore, the auditee should have his own solutions to the requirements of the system. In fact, the auditing protocols make this very clear. I have found sometimes very ill founded advices offered by the Auditor, as he doesn't fully understand the job. I still wonder and sometime take it up with the auditors as well, as to what pleasure the auditor is having by doing someone else's job and failing in his own assigned job, i.e. auditing. My humble request to all auditors is to stick to their own job, as it is also a very serious activity.
I fully agree with your concerns. I would request you to see, in the original post, the questions that are normally asked to me during assessments. The answers to these are NOT going to affect the processes/procedures in the auditee organization. Be assured, I do not offer any advice of the sort that you are referring to.
 
G

Guest

Guest
#9
I do appreciate your spirit of cooperating and helping the auditee learn a few things they are ignorant about. Still, in my opinion, auditing and consulting are two different roles and we should not mix the two. In fact, in our organization I insisted the internal auditors also to be very formal and to conduct opening and closing meetings just like external auditors (even the statement of confidentiality). It give a good deal of importance and seriousness to the quality system and its implementation. Also, in the spirit of helping the auditee, we forget that its the job of the MR to get his people learn. And its not our role to substitute the MR.
 
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