An internal audit can help guide you to understand the areas you are most at risk. Risk is very much the focus for all organisations nowadays and RTOs are not excluded. So how do you know if you are ticking all the right boxes and reducing your risk?
Whilst visiting RTOs I note that they are not conducting a check on the way they are operating; rending them not compliant. Systematic monitoring of internal systems, strategies and practices allows RTOs to quickly respond to changes in the marketplace and stakeholder expectations. So often when conducting an Internal Audit I find areas that have not been changed and by that fact they make the RTO non-complaint.
Years ago RTOs were told they had to conduct an Internal Audit. Then when the standards changed they became implied rather than explicit. This remains today and even though an RTO is required to implement quality assurance strategies (Clauses 2.1 – 2.2), the use of internal audits is not mentioned.
An Internal audit is not something to be feared. It is a valuable tool that provides us with a snap shot of how the organisation is operating. The results can be used to determine operational compliance and it provides us with a starting point on where areas need to change. It shows us the gap of how we think our RTO is working versus actual evidence of what is happening day to day. The internal audit provide us with objective data that an RTO can use. It is useful.
The current Standards for RTOs describe outcomes rather than inputs, the Standards encourage flexibility and innovation while assuring the quality of training. Standard Two states “The Operations of the RTO are quality assured. The information is used to evaluate RTO performance and be relevant to the operating characteristics and business objectives of the RTO and will vary from one RTO to another.”
By maintaining a systematic approach to compliance through internal audits it keeps you compliant during your external audit.
I know what it is like to manage a busy RTO. The workplace and industry demands, the students’ expectations, trainer and assessor requirements, maintaining competitive conditions and specific requirements required by government bodies, as well as marketing the business to remain viable. It all takes time and effort, and far too easily changes can happen within your RTO that make you non-compliant without you even knowing.
Monitoring is about keeping track of how things are going and internal audits are a check on the process being used to see if they are effective and enabling the RTO to achieve its desired outcomes. Internal audits provide a means for not just identifying problems but also where better practice can occur.
The internal audit offers a safety net to identify areas of noncompliance and implement action to address them before they are detected at an external audit. The stress and repercussions of when an external auditor identifies these situations are obviously going to be much greater than if they are picked up internally. Internal audits can also be used as a diagnostic tool when a problem has occurred e.g. explaining the reason why a compliant has been made.
Internal audits are often conducted by internal staff appointed particularly for the audit purposes or an external RTO consultant. These are called internal auditors. They conduct the audit the same way as an external auditor would, however the reports remain within the RTO. External audits are conducted on the behalf of the regulatory body and the reports go towards your registration compliance. The auditor is called the external auditor.
Case study 1
SECURE TRAINING is a small RTO that has been operating for a number of years. They also have another business that runs alongside the training arm. Basically they train their own staff as well as other members of the public. They have undertaken their last audit 4.5 years ago and re-registration audit is due in 6 months. The CEO believes he provides quality training and is one of the best in his field. After all he trains his own staff and has a thorough understanding of his industry needs.
He asked for an Internal Audit to ensure he is prepared for the Regulatory Audit.
The report he received showed non-compliances that needed rectification. He implemented a plan to amend these and add some extra units on scope. The effort he put in before his audit meant that he was prepared for the External auditor, and he is now registered for another 5 years.
Case study 2
TERRIFIC TAE TRAINING is a lager RTO with 15 contract trainers, and at least 4 sessions of training operating within their premises five days a week. External on-site training also happens. The RTO issues both Statement of Attainment and Qualifications. They have a Quality Manager who specifically addresses quality matters and writes training and assessment material.
Whilst it is his job function to maintain compliance, he believes in having an extra set of eyes on the RTO. For the past 7 years he has implemented a plan of having an external RTO Consultant to conduct an Internal audit every 12 months. By actuating the plan and responding to identified issues it meant that when the ASQA auditor came last month, they were compliant in all areas of the standards.
It also meant they were accredited the TAE16 qualification and has also helped other RTOs in getting it on their scope.
Scheduling your audits
It is common for organisations to plan a cycle of internal audits over timeframes such as a calendar or financial year. When scheduling they should take into account any events that could get in the way.
Risk should be a key consideration in scheduling with critical processes being audited on a more frequent basis than non-critical. For example if third parties are used, or any high risk areas within your RTO.
Internal audits mean a continuous critical review of the RTO systems, financial and operational matters of the business. Support processes should not be forgotten however.
The reports provide RTO managers with valuable information about the way their RTO is operating:
- Compliance with standards are being met
- Procedures are being followed
- Trainers and assessors are compliant
- Validation activities are being met
- Recordkeeping requirements are maintained
- Third party contracts are compliant, and
- Any contract conditions are met.
Providers who deliver quality training and make effort to reduce the risks, have prosperous businesses with an excellent reputation in the domestic and international market.
RTO Mentor provides assistance to RTO with internal audits. Whether they are desktop audits or face to face within your RTO, the report that follows provides you with valuable information to ensure your RTO is compliant and your life is less stressed during your external audits.