You will probably be pleased to note that this is going to be a markedly shorter blog than last time (https://www.ser-ltd.com/ser-scotland/blog/october-2017/how-to-certify-staged-projects) – audits will undoubtedly be a topic that we return to in future articles, but for our first audit-related blog we thought we would take the opportunity to answer a few of the most frequently asked queries about the process.

What are the criteria for selecting which Bodies and Certifiers are to be audited?

Assuming enough certificates have been produced for a satisfactory audit to be conducted, new members of the Scheme can expect to be audited within roughly the first 12 months of their membership. Our experience has been that initial audits can often help to correct any misunderstandings of the Scheme before they become too entrenched, and also allows the Body or Certifier to ask the auditors for advice and assistance.

Once the initial audit has been conducted, the most obvious way of selecting subsequent audits is via your last audit outcome. This is always the primary factor when assigning audits. However, other elements do come into play, which means that the date of your next audit may not precisely match the outcome of your previous one. These elements include:

  1. Volume of certificates produced – if you are a prolific Body or Certifier then you are likely to be audited more frequently
  2. Risk Group of certified projects – not only are you more likely to be selected for audit if you have certified a particularly large or complex project, we also look at Certifiers that have produced projects which are unusual for them. If, for example, you have usually certified large projects, you might be selected for audit if you then certify some small domestic scale projects
  3. Project Values of certified projects – we look at these in conjunction with the Risk Group – so any particularly large value projects are likely to see an audit triggered, particularly if it is unusually large in comparison to a Certifier’s usual projects
We were audited as an Approved Body 1 year ago, and our outcome email gave a likely timescale of 5 years until our next audit – why have we been selected for audit again?

When we designed the new website and IT system we made the decision to retain Approved Body audit outcomes. However, unless a Body is given an audit outcome of either ‘mentoring’, ‘suspension’ or ‘termination’, all Body audit outcomes more accurately equate to ‘re-audit to be conducted in conjunction with the next audit of a Certifier at the Approved Body’. This is because all Certifier audits in the new system are accompanied by an audit of the Approved Body which employs them.

Therefore, if one or more of your Approved Certifiers received an audit outcome of ‘re-audit within 1 year’, your firm will be audited alongside regardless of the outcome of the previous Approved Body audit.

Comments now included in audit outcome email

Those of you that have been audited in both the pre- and post-October 2016 systems may have noticed that your audit outcome emails now include corrective actions relating to findings which were only mentioned as ‘comments’, as well as those listed as ‘improvement issues’ or ‘major non-conformances’. We have added these to ensure that auditees receive feedback which is as detailed as possible, to enable them to improve their certification practice. ‘Comments’ are treated by auditors as opportunity to impart advice to auditees, and it was felt that in the previous system (in which audit outcome letters only included reference to ‘improvement issues’ and ‘major non-conformances’) such advice could be easily forgotten.

In this blog we have focused on the most common audit-related queries that we have received since the new system went live in October 2016. We were particularly keen to clarify the situation with Approved Body audits, as we are aware that this has been a source of confusion to some auditees. However, this should in no way be treated as a definitive or closed list of audit queries, so if you have any questions or suggestions for future topics please let us know via our Twitter or Facebook accounts.

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