We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender – Winston Churchill

The audit as a battle ground.

Sometimes an audit feels like a battle ground. And the words of Churchill, while we use it in humour, may be close to how some of you actually feel, like you’re about to go into battle.


As a consultant working with Registered Training Organisations (RTO’s) I often get asked questions about upcoming audits: what’s the auditor looking for, who are the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ auditors and whether I think the audit will be easy or tough. Many RTO managers prepare for audits like they are going into battle but at the same time leave the preparation to the last minute and don’t stop wishing or hoping  that they will be able to avoid the carnage and get through the battle without casualty.

* See first hand how to avoid the audit carnage by joining us at our free webinar here.

I can totally understand the fear of the audit process, particularly if the manager has been around in the VET sector for a while. There are certainly tales of woe that send shivers up my spine: auditors who make trainers cry, auditors who cannot see the big picture for the seemingly irrelevant details and auditors who simply refuse to look at the evidence put under their nose because it is in electronic format. And let’s not forget the evidence that is lost in the mail or on the desk of the auditor!


But, it doesn’t have to be that way. It can be good for business.

On the other hand, if an RTO takes a proactive and ‘good for business’ approach to compliance the battleground mentality becomes irrelevant.

By ‘good for business’ I mean that the RTO actively and systematically ensures that their business systems are functioning effectively and their staff are well informed and engaged in compliance as part of their everyday roles.

An RTO that makes compliance and continuous improvement part of what they do every day should welcome the scrutiny of an audit so that they can show how they are on track and being competitive.

Being well prepared for audit starts with knowing your compliance requirements and continues by maintaining compliance at all times. To help with this, you can read a bit more about it here. Or join us at our free compliance webinar here.

But it is also helpful to know when to expect an audit, why they might happen and how rigorous they will be.

When an audit might happen and why.

An audit of an RTO may be conducted by the regulator at any time, to assess whether or not the RTO is delivering quality training and assessment and quality outcomes. You will be audited when you apply for registration and again within one year of registration or when you start  training delivery. The reason for this is because the regulator wants to determine your risk rating by monitoring what you are doing.

The primary aim of the risk assessment process is to help all RTOs to be fully compliant at all times.

RTOs that comply with the conditions and standards and consistently deliver high quality services can expect a low level of regulatory intervention and once the regulator has a profile of your performance they will determine your risk rating. This in turn will determine the type and level of audit to be conducted.

You will most likely be audited again in some way when you are up for renewal of registration;

  • usually at 5 year intervals
  • when an application to extend scope of operations is received
  • if there is a change of management
  • during investigation of a complaint
  • or while compliance is being monitored.

Depending on your risk assessment profile, audits may range from an assessment of financial viability, a  desktop assessment of evidence provided, or a site visit of RTO locations. Depending on the size of your RTO and your risk profile the site audit may vary from a half day to several days in length. During an audit, evidence may be collected from the RTO itself; its students; industry organisations; ASQA’s compliance systems, including the complaints register; and other risk analysis systems.

Let’s go back to the battleground for a moment. Assume you have great systems in place and you are getting consistently positive feedback on your client services and training and assessment etc. What other information might help you prepare for audit without drawing the battle shields? Besides conducting your own self assessment against the VET Quality Framework, take a look at the risk indicators below and rate yourself.

Using the risk indicators to prepare your RTO for audit.

The three risk indicators used by regulators such as ASQA to determine the risk rating on an RTO are:

1. Performance (50% of overall weighting assigned) which is determined by factors such as:

  • quality indicator data including competency completion data
  • your compliance history
  • substantiated complaints history (last 2 years)
  • industry feedback on your performance as a provider of training and assessment (e.g. forming an industry visiting group who will provide feedback on what you are doing will help you stay in close touch with industry needs to ensure improved student outcomes and relevance to the industry.

2. Governance (30% of overall weighting assigned) which is determined by factors such as:

  • business strength and success with regards to planning and financial viability
  • leadership credentials and skills in VET and transparency of  the RTO structure
  • the extent of the RTO’s partnerships with other organisations who deliver training on the RTO’s behalf and the extent of the growth of the scope of the RTO in a two year period e.g. have you doubled your scope in 2 years?)

3. Profile (20% of overall weighting assigned) which is determined by factors such as:

  • scope of registration and the AQF levels of the qualifications delivered
  • the industry training areas and any links you may have to licensing e.g. security licensing, White card accreditation etc.
  • delivery of training to overseas students in Australia or operations overseas
  • modes of delivery e.g. face to face vs online or distance courses and types of student clients.

(Adapted from ASQA website 20 Feb 2014)

We’d love to hear your story.

If you would like to share your war stories, or better yet, how you have used an audit to support your business please use the comment feature below. Let us know how you will use this information about risk ratings to prepare for your next audit.

If you need help please contact us via the contact form. You might also want to check out our audit services menu here

We have a great range of helpful products that you can check out here, and we regularly host free webinars on these topics. You can see our list of webinars here. Be sure to also check out the webinar archive here.

And don’t forget to join us on our next compliance webinar here.

Thanks for joining us.



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