Having a continuous quality improvement system at your RTO is a vital component in ensuring compliance with the Standards, funding contracts and other VET requirements. A schedule of regular internal audits is a key tool in maintaining a proactive, “no surprises”, compliance environment. An internal audit can also be considered a “health check” to ensure that your operations are running efficiently and professionally in accordance with the RTO’s policies and procedures.
So here’s the 6 steps to follow in conducting an internal audits at your RTO:
Establish an Internal Audit Schedule
To do this you will need to know the following:
- What needs to be audited. For example, you will need to audit against the Standards for Registered Training Organisations and any funding contracts that your RTO holds, for example the Skills First Funding Contract in Victoria. Make a list of each of the external VET requirements, regulations and guiding documents that your RTO needs to be compliant with. Also include industry requirements relating to your qualifications and the RTOs internal policies and procedures.
- Frequency required. How often you conduct internal audits will be determined by either the regulations/documents/guidelines or the RTOs business policies.
- Determine who will conduct the audits. Based on the internal capacity and experience, decide who will conduct each of the internal audits. Using experienced and specialist consultants can be prudent if your RTO is new, has a new funding contract, has experienced non-compliances, does not have experienced compliance professionals on staff or an external opinion/fresh eyes are sought to uncover potential non-compliances that could be missed through complacency, assumptions or familiarity. If you are using consultants, you will need to find out their availability and obtain quotes for the work.
Once you have this information, schedule the internal audits in to suit the organisation’s calendar. For example, if you will need access to trainers, schedule the internal audits in around the training calendar for the year for a time when most trainers will be available. Find out if there are going to be other busy times of the year, such as a graduation or open days, that may impact on the effectiveness or efficiency of an internal audit and schedule around these.
Obtain management approval and commitment for the internal audit schedule.
Advise the teams and departments of the scheduled internal audits.
Notify the relevant departments and staff members when routine internal audits will be conducted so that they can make themselves available. You will also need to advise them of what documents, work samples, evidence of participation may be required so that they can have these ready.
Prepare for the internal audit
The auditor or audit team need to thoroughly prepare ahead of time. Revisit the requirements that you are auditing against, have your checklist or audit tool ready (you may even need to develop or review your tool) and familiarise yourself with it’s contents. Even if you have conducted many audits previously, requirements and tools change frequently in VET so review them regularly. If you are not confident or need clarification on conducting internal audits, attend professional development such as our webinars or advice from one of our AVETMESS consultants.
Conduct the internal audit using interviews and documented evidence
When it comes to time of the actual internal audit, examine documents, work samples, computer records and other evidence and compare this to the requirements. You may also wish to observe training and assessment practices in action.
Likewise conduct interviews with the relevant staff members, document their answers and compare what they tell you about their work practices. Compare this to the policies, procedures, Standards, funding contract etc as relevant. You may wish to have a prepared list of questions for consistency. Ask questions for additional information or clarication about non-compliances found in the documented evidence.
Document and report results
Document the results of your examination of the evidence and the interviews conducted along with samples.
Write a report for management that contains a summary of your findings and whether these were compliant with the requirements. You could also include suggestions for improvement.
Follow up on rectifications and improvements
Prepare a plan for rectifying non-compliances immediately and ensure that it is actioned appropriately and urgently.
Create another plan for improvement actions which could be scheduled over a period of time determined by the priority and impact of each action. This could include updates of policies and procedures or providing additional training for staff.
Final tips and thoughts
Here are some final things to consider:
- Avoid procrastination When it comes to regulations and funding contracts, conduct your internal audit as soon as possible each year (or required frequency).
- Face the facts. It’s better to discover a non-compliance internally and rectify it before it creates a larger (and possibly external) problem. Avoid assuming that everything is compliant without verifying this through an internal audit.
- Build a quality culture. Deliberately and consistently cultivate a culture where compliance, continuous improvement and quality is embraced. Especially develop a culture where people can safely report non-compliances, mistakes or areas of concern.