Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Environmental Management Systems Audit Compared To Regulatory Compliance Audits

Recently, there has been an increased interest in conducting “Systems Audits” especially within businesses or agencies already familiar with “Compliance Audits”. In this article, we will compare Systems Auditing to traditional Compliance Auditing.

Compliance auditing tends to be a straight-forward process. Objective evidence is collected to determine the status of compliance relative to specific requirements. Often these will be regulatory requirements, but compliance audits can be conducted relative to company or agency policies or procedures. To conduct a compliance audit, the auditor needs to know what the specific requirements are. Based on documentation review and observations made by the auditor, compliance with these requirements is evaluated.

Compliance auditing tends to develop a “snap-shot” of compliance on the day the audit was conducted. The purpose is to determine whether or not the auditee is in compliance, and not how compliance is attained.

Systems audits extend beyond strict compliance on the day of the audit. Although compliance with requirements is an important factor in a systems audit, providing an indication of system effectiveness, auditing the process leading to compliance is just as important.

For systems audits, the auditor needs to not only understand the specific compliance requirements, but also needs to understand the system the auditee uses to attain compliance. To pass a systems audit, the auditee must be in compliance with requirements and must demonstrate that an effective system is in place and being implemented to continuously be in compliance.

Systems audits will assess the compliance assurance system, and not simply assess the status of compliance on the day of the audit. Because a systems audit requires more intimate knowledge of the systems being used by the auditee, typically a systems auditor will request more information prior to the audit, including documents such as written plans and procedures, training requirements, etc. Often, systems audits will focus on specific areas, rather than being a site-wide assessment.

Systems audits offer a clear advantage beyond compliance audits – they address the underlying processes in place to assure on-going compliance. Systems audits also require a higher level of effort by the auditor and involve a broader range of personnel at a facility.

Caltha LLP provides specialized expertise to clients nationwide in the conducting compliance audits and environmental management systems audits, training internal auditors, and preparing cost-effective compliance management programs.

For further information contact Caltha LLP at
Caltha LLP Website

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