The Role of an Observer During an Audit

Audit, audit by exception

Question

A customer of ours wants to participate as an observer in an upcoming audit. I’ve not been able to find much information about the role of observer – what they can and cannot do.

For instance, I assume that they cannot ask questions during the audit interview process. Does anyone have an appropriate checklist for an observation – list of dos and don’ts?

Answer

The auditors should be notified of a presence of the observer in advance. There are times where this may not be allowed depending on the type of the audit.

The customer should sign a confidentiality agreement on not disclosing any information outside the audit process. The rules should be established as part of this confidentiality agreement.

An observer (customer) may not engage in any part of the audit.

The observer may not interfere in any aspect of the audit (may not inject, provide opinions, argue a finding, speak for or against a finding, use the audit information for a future punitive measure).

If questioned during the audit, the observer should explain the role as observer. Ideally this should be brought to the attention of the auditor in advance.

These basic rules ensure that the audit is not compromised in any way and the customer’s request to witness the audit is conducted in a professional manner.

Dilip A Shah
ASQ Fellow, ASQ CQE, CQA, CCT
President, E = mc3 Solutions,
Technical Director, Sapphire Proficiency Testing Services.
Past Chair, ASQ Measurement Quality Division (2012-2013)
Former Member of the A2LA Board of Directors (2006-2014)