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How important is the internal audit?

 

One of the main requirements of certifying to an ISO standard is that a programme of internal auditing is in place. Without having an internal audit report to show the auditor at the stage two certification audit, it’s unlikely your organization will become certified.

Who can perform your internal audit?

One of the main questions we’re asked about internal auditing is who is allowed to conduct it. There are two key parts to the answer.

The first is that the auditor needs to be objective and impartial. This means it can’t be someone who has been closely involved in the implementation of the management system and it can’t someone who’s actively involved in running it. If your organization doesn’t have an established audit department, then you’re probably looking at an external resource to fulfil the requirement.

The second part of the answer is that the internal auditor has to have relevant education, training or experience to be able to do a competent job of the audit. So, depending on which ISO standard you are certifying to, they’ll need to know something about subject, the standard itself, and how to conduct an audit.

The internal auditor doesn’t have to have qualifications, but if they do it’s a good idea to obtain copies of their certificates and store them within your management system.

When to audit?

Once you’ve identified suitable auditors, and it may be more than one, you need to arrange for them to carry out a full audit of the management system prior to your stage two certification visit. Once you’re certified you have the option of spreading the internal audits out so that they cover all of the clauses of the standard over a three year period, although it depends on how comfortable you feel with this.

Your first internal audit should be scheduled for when the majority of your management system is in place, but don’t wait until it’s perfect or it will never happen.

It’s common for the first internal audit to be based around the structure of the standard, but after this some organizations choose to make their internal audits process-based. For example, an audit may address the sales process, the supplier management process or the software development process.

The audit report and other resources

The main deliverable of the internal audit is the audit report which should contain details of any nonconformities found. You should be well on the way to addressing these nonconformities by the time you get to your stage two certification audit.

The CertiKit toolkits provide a number of resources to help with the internal audit process, including an auditing procedure, audit plan, audit report, programme, nonconformity action plan and a checklist of appropriate questions for the internal auditor to ask during the audit.

An important tool for improvement

Used properly, internal auditing is a useful tool for continual improvement and avoiding nasty surprises when the external auditor next comes to visit. Invest in doing it well, and you won’t regret it.

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