COVID-19: REMOTE AUDITS
Introducing Remote Audits
Due to the access and travel restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 lockdown, Shangoni Management Services has developed and implemented an Environmental Management System audit methodology that conforms to these restrictions, whilst importantly, being in compliance with the international Auditing Principles as set out in ISO 19011. The approach will still ensure a trusted assurance process that verifies the design and implementation status of our clients’ management systems. Several certification bodies have indicated that they will also perform remote audits for the foreseeable future to support every client’s certification needs. The new approach will lead to a reduced cost with further benefits:
- Ensure that the client remains within the agreed and approved audit schedule;
- Decrease the carbon footprint and travel expenses for both Shangoni and the client’s team;
- A flexible approach whereby Shangoni aligns the technology and communication strategy that works best for the client;
- Specialists can be involved for specific sections that would not normally be involved during “on-site” audits;
- Engage the client role-players no matter where they are based, and for an agreed scheduled period only;
- Remove geographical boundaries and minimise disruption to the client;
- Audit evidence becomes easier to record and manage; and
- Improve auditee and auditor communications.
What is a remote audit?
A remote audit follows the same principles as an on-site audit but uses electronic means to remotely obtain audit evidence and to objectively evaluate to determine the extent of conformity to the audit criteria. The audit still covers document and record review, where possible uses remote sensing, undertake interviews with workers and allows for presentation of evidence/findings through a range of technology platforms.
Conducting a remote audit does not entail that all the work is necessarily performed off site; some of the work can still be conducted on site. Remote audits mean that as much as possible, audit activities will be configured to be conducted away from the auditee’s location to overcome travel and exposure restrictions.
Remote audit approaches
To ensure Shangoni caters for our clients’ needs, the following approaches can be adopted as per the client’s needs and the level of risk:
Option 1: The auditor remains off site (Shangoni offices) as facilitated by the necessary Information and Communications Technology (“ICT”) infrastructure.
Option 2: The auditor is at the client’s location (e.g. head office), remotely auditing other sites, performing interviews, reviewing documentation and records, or observing processes and activities in the physical and remote presence of the client’s team.
Option 3: The auditor conducts an offsite documented information review (Shangoni offices), compile a site verification log, followed by an onsite verification of the log items, thereby limiting time spend on site.
During the audit planning and preparation phases, the most appropriate audit approach will be agreed with the client.
How does a remote audit work?
Remote audits will follow the audit cycle as per the management system requirements. This will allow for the client to complete the Plan, Do, Check, Act (“PDCA”) cycle as per the entrenched principles of continual improvement.
Step 1: Planning
Shangoni will work together with the client to establish a fit-for-purpose audit approach, taking into consideration scheme-specific requirements and the client’s ICT.
Once the approach is confirmed, the detailed audit planning process is scheduled that includes agreeing the technology and audit methods used and confirming the final audit plan.
Step 2: Conducting the remote audit
A successful remote audit relies on adequate connectivity (i.e. e-mail, data transfer, voice and/or video) to ensure effective communication between the auditor and the client.
Documented information is requested by the auditor, and a document review is conducted to determine if the design of the system meets the ISO standard requirements. From this review, a request for supporting evidence (verification log) is communicated to the client. The client provides such evidence (e.g. documents, meeting minutes, reports, photos, registers, etc) to the auditor through an agreed communication method (One drive, Box, e-mail, etc). The Shangoni auditors may also request interviews with identified workers through the agreed communication applications available, or where technology allows, using other techniques such as remote sensing or visual confirmation (e.g. photographs) to support further verification.
Scheduling of the remote audit can be adapted to suit the client’s availability (e.g. morning sessions).
Note: Timeframes for this phase are flexible and will be agreed between the auditor and auditee, and this process does not necessarily need to happen concurrently. This will reduce the intensity and business disruptions on your operations if well planned.
Step 3: Site audit (where required as per the agreed audit approach)
Where required, and to ensure successful completion of the audit, a site audit may be arranged. The areas of interest will be determined during both Step 1 and Step 2 above and communicated to the auditee. This allows for the development of a detailed site verification log to ensure for efficient planning and access, thus minimising time spent on site for on-site verification and disruption to your organisation.
Step 4: Audit reporting and feedback
In addition to a standard on-site audit report, the remote audit report will also include detail on the remote auditing methods that were applied and will clarify the effectiveness of the audit in achieving the audit objectives. A formal audit feedback meeting can be arranged via a web-based communication application as agreed.
- The client has sufficient ICT infrastructure and connectivity.
- Timelines for submission of documented information are adhered to as agreed in the audit planning phase, including the cut-off date/time for submissions of evidence;
- Availability of auditees for remote interviews via web-based communication application; and
- Confidentiality and data security protocol are agreed on.