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Audit is not something to fear.
The Learning Community has worked with many RTO businesses over the years and every one of those RTOs feared the words ‘audit’ and ‘auditor’!
Even we have been guilty of this fear. Many years ago we arrived at an RTO where we were working as consultants and were greeted at the front desk with this welcome: ‘You are the auditors aren’t you?’ Our reply was ‘NO we are here to help you not hurt you!’
So why are we now so positive about audit? Over the years we have seen the many benefits of an RTO using audit as a tool to improve practices and achieve results. An audit on its own won’t solve your problems but depending on the way you approach it, audit can be the first step towards solving your compliance issues.
Types of Audit
Let’s take a look at the different types of audit:
These should be regularly scheduled and conducted within the RTO to monitor key compliance issues. You might have a few regularly scheduled audits throughout the year and target different areas of the business to make sure that your continuous improvement system is working or you might do one large audit once a year.
2nd Party Audit:
A 2nd party audit is one where the organisation invites another party into the organisation to conduct an audit. The frequency of 2nd party audits will depend on many factors, including the size and scope of the organisation, the complexity of the compliance obligations, the framework that you have implemented to monitor and manage compliance and the external factors that influence your compliance management activities e.g. your organisation may have to undergo compulsory 3rd party financial audits on a yearly basis so finance may not be the focus of a 2nd party audit.
3rd Party Audit:
Organisations such as RTOs, which are subject to external regulation of their operations, will be subject to 3rd party audits e.g. ASQA Audits for reregistration or in response to a complaint.
Benefits of Internal (and 2nd party) Audits
The benefits of audit go well beyond determining your compliance profile. Here are just a few benefits for you to consider:
- No surprises: If you are proactive in your approach to compliance and you schedule and conduct regular audits as a quality check, with appropriate follow up and rectification, there should be no surprises at the time of audit.
- Team development: An internal audit can provide many opportunities for team development. Firstly, it is an opportunity to highlight the great work that is being done across your RTO. Secondly the internal audit can provide training opportunities to increase the compliance knowledge of your team. Involving a wide range of staff members in the audit is a good way to build confidence and increase knowledge about the overall operations of the RTO. Thirdly, by involving the whole team in the audit you will provide a unique opportunity for information and idea sharing. Finally, the old saying ‘practice makes perfect’ applies here! The more you expose your staff to audit practices, the more they will be prepared for the inevitable 3rd party audit when it comes around!
- Improve efficiency: An internal audit can be a great way of focusing on the efficiency of your business practices. Regular internal audits will help focus staff on the strategic areas that will lead to better outcomes for students, the RTO and ultimately the industry you are serving.
- Establishes a monitoring culture: What do your actions say about your commitment to compliance? Does the culture of your RTO support regular monitoring and checking on compliance? A regular schedule of internal audits can help to establish and reinforce a transparent culture where monitoring is a normal part of the way the RTO operates.
- Improve accountability and trust within the organisation: The process of involving staff in an audit, requires them to take ownership of their work and builds a culture of accountability. Trust is developed when team members consistently demonstrate ownership and accountability.
- Ideas for future planning: An internal audit is an opportunity for all staff to share in the review of the RTO and provide their ideas for continuous improvement.
Where do you stand on the practice of audit?
Do you agree with the quote below?
‘Many businesses view compliance as a necessary evil — something that must be tolerated instead of embraced. Leaders pay lip service to the importance of compliance, but do little to create incentives to encourage an ethical culture. In the worst cases, compliance is side-lined, creating a “check-the-box” culture where compliance obligations are hurdles to be overcome as quickly as possible’ (Grant-Hart, 2016).
Or, are you prepared to change your attitude towards audit and use it as a developmental tool rather than a tick the box exercise to satisfy an item on this years’ operational plan? Perhaps this blogpost has been helpful for you to consider as you think about 2018 and the compliance challenges you may be facing?
You might also like to check out our audit service packages here.
If you would like some help with this please contact as at firstname.lastname@example.org. or leave a comment below.
Grant-Hart, Kristy. How to Be a Wildly Effective Compliance Officer: Learn the Secrets of Influence, Motivation and Persuasion to Become an In-Demand Business Asset (p. 24). Brentham House Publishing Company Ltd. Kindle Edition. 2016