The term ‘audit’ usually has a financial connotation to it. In that regard, simply put, a financial audit is the cross-examination of financial statements and transactions of an organization or an individual.
A technical audit or assessment is a systematic and objective examination of an intramural or extramural project to determine:
-whether environmental data collection activities and related results comply with the project’s QA Project Plan,
-whether the procedures defined by the QA Project Plan are implemented effectively, and
-whether they are sufficient and adequate to achieve the QA Project Plan’s data quality goals.
[ISO’s definition of “quality audit” as given in Guidelines for Auditing Quality Systems – Auditing (ISO, 1994a).]
Technical audits occur on a rather regular basis in the project’s lifetime. They predominantly deal with physical facilities, equipment, project planning, training, operating procedures, and technical operations among other modules associated to process and/or system and/or proposal. A technical audit is also deployed to substantiate the quality and quantity of materials, either tangible or intangible, brought into the project from a supplier. Usually experts and engineers in the particular field perform technical audits. They evaluate the shortcomings and areas of refinement in every step of the project.
Though carried out by an engineer, a technical audit falls more under the realm of management. Hence its foremost task is to accoutre management with tools to determine if things are going as planned. They also dispense the basis for taking action to correct any deficiencies that are discovered. Technical audits, like a project, are distinctive in their own way. They can be simple or complex and can last from a couple of days to several weeks depending on the level of assurance you are seeking.
Types of Technical Audit
Readiness reviews: These are conducted prior to the implementation of the project. Readiness review is done to appraise if requirements of the project like personnel, facilities, and equipment are ready.
Technical System Analysis: TSAs assess the degree to which the procedures and processes indicated in the project plan are being implemented. Auditors are required to examine things like facilities, equipment, training, record-keeping, data validation, data management, and so forth. TSAs are usually performed in the early days of the project to allow for timely corrective action. Massive projects may require regular TSA throughout the project’s life.
Surveillance: Surveillance is an indispensable part of a technical audit. Instead of occurring as a separate task in itself, surveillance accompanies the process of technical auditing all the time. It checks whether or not established norms and materials are used and suggests remedies for deficiencies. It also includes follow up to verify if those suggestions were realized.
Why are technical audits necessary?
Initiation of technical assessment or audit institutes ambivalence among those involved in a project. “Why spend money on a technical audit if a lot has already been spent in planning and implementation of the project?” Good project planning is important but there is no guarantee that things will always go as planned. Personal errors are never part of any plan but yet they take place. And without audit, these will all go unnoticed until it’s too late and the damage is done. Technical audits can also address changes in the course of the project due to unprecedented situations.
The objective of technical audits varies from type to type and from time to time. Different types of technical audits are performed simultaneously to achieve the required goals under appropriate conditions. Technical audits are performed by professionals who assess scientific data and try to detect irregularities in the experimental results, inappropriate practices, misinterpretations of data, inaccurate reporting of data, and departures from planning documents. These irregularities if not detected and resolved could lead to catastrophic failure of the project. For research and technical analysis projects, scientific defensibility is crucial because the outcomes of these projects may be used to govern future operations or to provide the scientific basis for regulatory decision making.
Effective Technical audits can shrink the occurrences of questionable data, faulty conclusions, and inappropriate practices. some other reasons to perform technical audits are listed below;
1. Provide the necessary information in order to evaluate if sufficient quality is being maintained in services and procedures.
2. Suggest corrective actions if lapses are discovered.
3. Make transactions in the project transparent and consequentially increase the integrity of the project and the audit report.
4. Authenticate the quality and content of deliverables from suppliers
5. Validate license requirements
6. Assess the delivery team’s processes and skillset
7. Perform tests to validate performance and scalability
8. Perform third party independence and objectivity-Identify gaps versus regulatory requirements
9. Confirming the implementation of prescribed planning documents
10. Identifying potential problems early in the course of a project.
Advantages of technical audit
There are many benefits of using an auditing report to enhance your company’s performance. Auditing the processes and procedures beforehand can help in minimizing errors right away before they escalate. Companies are always in the hunt to enhance their operations and provide efficient services to the consumer. The profit of any business comes down to its cash flow. With an audit report, the company can see its condition financial statements relevant to its technical aspects. This can largely decrease the burden on the financial audit report. Audit reports will help the company to liquidate its expenses and revenues to see how the flow is doing. Technical reports help organizations in maintaining their consistency. It will guide the company for better functioning in technical aspects.
How are Technical Audits performed?
Though technical audits are very thorough, it is not necessary to determine the status of each screw. Such a practice would sink a lot of capital and time. Technical audits have to be cautious to not interfere with the normal operation of the project. To conduct a technical audit, the installation is divided into sections. What is to be done and how to get is done are specified beforehand. First, one needs to have a clear idea of the purpose of that installation. The specifications are properly consulted and then checks are performed whether or not the intended targets can be met with the installation.
How to write a technical audit report?
The objective of writing an audit report is to let the management know about the findings of the audit. Although the formats may vary from organization to organization, the essence remains the same. The report must clearly state the type of audit, the auditor, the auditee, what was assessed, the findings, and the conclusions and recommendations (if these were also requested by the client). Typically, two reports are produced: the draft findings report and the final report.
Following steps are advised to make sure the report escapes errors.
Step 1: Prepare Operations to Manage
Step 2: Create an Audit Checklist
Step 3: Gather All Details Needed
Step 4: Decide on a Format
Step 5: Proofread and Present
The auditee should also have a final comment to confirm the accuracy of the information in the report.