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The value of internal and external quality assessments

SQMC blog article on the value of internal and external auditing.

Significant numbers of senior managers are not interested in internal company audits of their quality management systems – even though they can be hugely valuable in identifying potential business improvements.

That was the surprising result of a survey carried out when it was revealed that 30 per cent of senior managers are indifferent or negative to their own in-house audits.

This research shows that the benefits of internal audit activity are really not understood as widely as they should be. Internal audits are very useful for reviewing and improving internal control systems; identifying the root cause of problems, identifying where changes and improvements can be made, are useful for risk management and improve the quality and quantity of information available for management decisions.

The lack of engagement with senior managers was also confirmed by the fact that a significant number of annual audit plans are prepared without senior management sign off (42 per cent), and only 24 per cent of organisations discussed audit findings at regular senior management meetings.

One of the reasons may be that the financial side of conducting audits is also a neglected area is that over 60% of respondents said that the benefits or improvements resulting from the internal audit findings are not converted to financial savings, which was surprising and is a missed opportunity to communicate with senior managers in their language!.

For those auditors who wish to improve senior management engagement there is a five point plan, based feedback from the research:

• Ensure that your audit plan is prepared with senior management involvement.

• Design the audit plan to tackle areas which have greatest impact on the achievement of business objectives or reduction of business risk.

• Communicate the role and benefits of audits to staff at all levels and recognise that the benefits will be different according to different roles and responsibilities.

• Calculate the return on investment that auditing delivers and if that is not positive then review the focus and purpose of the audits.

• Provide feedback on the audit findings more often than at the annual management review.

(Research data courtesy of BSi)