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  1. Graham Brown
    Graham Brown at |

    Andrew is right in stating that checklists have drawbacks, but checklists are not appropriate for some types of audits and should not be promoted as a universal tool. In particular, in Australia especially, government regulators commonly include in planning approvals and resource licences, permits and leases etc a clause requiring a periodic compliance audit to be conducted against that regulatory document plus in many cases a number of additional permits and the management plans required by them. Lenders such as local and international banks also include such clauses in their loan agreements for major projects. This is especially the case for environmental compliance audits where the 500 question scenario is not uncommon. Auditors do not spend six hours doing the audit, a team of two or three certified auditors may be on site for up to five days, with additional commentary required under the regulatory documents from up to six technical experts. In one case in SE Asia I had five auditors on site for 12 days. The development of formal audit protocols is essential, and these sometimes need approval from the regulator, lender or client prior to their use. These are obviously very expensive projects, and the regulators and lenders assess the audits to make sure they have covered every requirement in the nominated documents. Internationally the audit report may also need to be submitted by the client or the lender to the national government and may then become part of the regulatory documentation with the audit recommendations becoming mandatory commitments. Both the auditors and the auditee organisation can be taken to task and even prosecuted for failing to do the audit as required. Checklists are fine for limited audits or inspections looking at a specific issue, especially for quality or safety audits where there are few if any permits with conditions attached against which to audit. However it is really important for both internal and external auditors to be given sufficient time and resources to do the audit properly. ISO 19011 is a good guide.

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