BMTA Newsletter BMTA Newsletter - Spring 2020 | Page 12

. REMOTE AUDITING James Gibb: Technical Director of Advanced Certification, Director of the Association of British Certification Bodies, and a member of the IAS Technical Advisory Council. The severity of the coronavirus crisis on the conformity assessment sector first became apparent to me during a mid-February technical meeting with several certification bodies and UKAS to discuss the mandatory document for Accreditation Assessment of Conformity Assessment Bodies with Activities in Multiple Countries, during this review much of the informal discussion was around the need to establish policy early on about what the impending pandemic would mean to certification bodies and accreditation bodies alike. The previous global crisis that precipitated a global accreditation policy was the combined tsunami in Japan and flooding in Thailand nearly 10 years before; in this case there was a clear light at the end of the tunnel enabling a structured and timebound kicking of the can down the road as a means of getting through the crisis. Coronavirus was going to be different, the predictions of when the crisis would come to an end varied from highly optimistic “will go away in April” to a 12 months plus disruption and the existing approaches for dealing with a global crisis that affected the ability to physically audit organisations did not take a pandemic fully into account. Since 2008 guidance was available related to use of Computer Assisted Auditing Techniques, but the tried and tested methods of a physical on-site audit meant that this was a little used tool in the auditor's tool kit, with it being difficult to justify and convince both accreditation bodies and clients that the same degree of rigour and confidence could be achieved through these “remote” audits –they simply did not take place very often. Adversity being the mother of progress, coronavirus has changed perceptions. So, what is a remote audit? Image It is not simply a review of documents that are sent to the audit team, rather the conduct of a full audit using ICT (Information and Communication Technology) in place of physically attending the location(s) under assessment. The same audit objectives and intended outcomes apply and a remote audit should achieve the same level of depth and deliver the same degree of confidence in the results. Remote auditing is very much an area of ongoing development, certification bodies have their preferred methods of working and there is a wide variety of approaches being used currently, as with all new approaches the cream will rise to the top and within a few months these techniques will be consolidated into those that are truly effective in the long term. Advanced Certification has now been operating the ”new normal” for two months and has completed many remote assessments of clients, at the same time we have also experienced UKAS completing a full remote surveillance assessment of Advanced Certification. It is based on these experiences that the conclusions on the positives and negatives have been drawn: For the professional services sector where agile working practices have been rolled out for some time remote auditing allows for an efficient and in-depth assessment of the business processes and activities with virtually no difference to a physical audit, making use of screen share and remote control functions within MS Teams has enabled our auditors to complete audits without any issues for may organisations such as translation agencies, legal practices & architects. Our own assessment by UKAS was a resounding success, the use of technology enabled the audit to proceed without disruption and instead of the assessor being sat at the same PC and the auditee physically handing the mouse to the assessor this was a virtual handover but delivered the same result. It felt as though UKAS were actually able to complete more actual auditing as the usual delay tactics of making tea, providing biscuits no longer apply so a 4 hour remote audit session, meaning you get a full four hours of audit.