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Thursday, 23 July 2015

The Familiarity Fatigue and Flow-Through Syndrome in Internal Audits

What have you heard about internal audits lately? I was recently reminded of the dangers of conducting your own audits during my attendance at a certification audit.

Under all of the schemes currently on the market, internal audits conducted by operations are required. At the same time, a common suggestion about internal audits is that auditing one's own work should be avoided at all costs. It is argued or assumed that a person auditing his or her own work (a self-audit) invariably overlooks things. Technically, all internal audits are self-audits (in one's own company or where one works). Therefore, by inference, all internal audits overlook things and should be unacceptable. Do you agree?

I believe that people do hasty and poor jobs of internal or self-audits when they do not fully understand the function of these audits. Anyone who understands the function of self-audits also knows that it is safest to maintain integrity in the process. Here is why: A person who cannot detect shortcomings in his or her own work is not qualified to do that work. A qualified person who hides his or her shortcomings during self-audits in order to look good, often achieves the opposite. When the hidden shortcomings are discovered by someone else, incompetence is credited to the person who does the work and hides the shortcomings. Incompetence never looks good and, if credited to a person, it almost always gets that person fired.

Ironically, the very schemes that mandate internal audits (self-audits) are the same schemes that view such audits with the greatest suspicion. It appears that these schemes understand the value of internal audits. Yet they view such audits with so much suspicion, especially when a person audits his or her own work. Two reasons come to mind immediately: 1. The schemes do not trust the people conducting the audits. 2 Scheme auditors may have observed and reported instances where the individuals auditing their own work have glossed over things but issued “pass” grades. 

Both the distrust and gloss-over tendencies must of course be countered. The SSQA Concept provides clear and effective solution and I believe it is the only concept that provides such a solution as far as I have seen. 

If you are already able to beat the Flow-Through Bug and the Familiarity Fatigue Syndrome in your internal audits, you do not need SSQA. If you have not been able to beat these, you need to either implement, or re-visit how you have implemented, SSQA Step 6 – “CARE” (Section 2.6 of the SSQA Manual). If you do not have this manual, check out what you may be missing.
 Posted By Felix Amiri
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Felix Amiri is the current Food Sector Chair of GCSE-Food & Health Protection

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