Companies or organizations may be required to undergo compliance audits for a variety of reasons including government mandated requirements, grantor stipulations, HIPPA compliance audits, and workplace safety to name a few. The goal of these audits is to ensure that laws, regulations, and/or standards are being consistently followed.
Preparing for a compliance audit can be a very tedious and stressful process but laying some of the groundwork ahead of time can help avoid the last-minute scrambling. The key to preparing for a compliance audit is organization and planning.
One step in the organization process is to ensure proper record retention. If you are not on top of managing proper record retention such as payroll records, vendor invoices, timesheets, and activity logs, and have the proper documentation to provide an auditor, there is a high chance that you may have a finding reported in your final audit report. Create file folders or organize information in binders (with titled dividers) to ensure that all information can be easily tracked. All the documents, reports, emails, approvals, correspondence, etc. that were used to ensure the compliance requirement were met should be retained in one central location.
Make sure that the compliance requirements that you are required to adhere to are understood and overseen by a subject matter expert. Just like you would not want a non-licensed pilot to be flying a plane, you would also not want a receptionist to be overseeing a compliance audit over IT security. The designated contact for the auditors should be someone who is familiar with the compliance requirements, as well as the systems and processes in place. Continuous training and ensuring that the financial, Human Resources, and workplace safety policies and procedures at your Company are up-to-date and monitored by the subject matter expert will ensure that staff does not miss any new compliance requirements that may be reviewed by an external auditor.
Conducting random internal inspections is another important tip that can help you avoid surprises during the external compliance audit. Monthly, quarterly, or even semi-annual inspections of compliance requirements can help in catching some costly mistakes and ensure timely correction. Develop an internal compliance checklist that can be reviewed against records during each inspection.
Start preparing for a compliance audit well ahead of time and the audit process will run much smoother. Always be prepared for regulators or auditors to come knocking at your door any minute. Taking a proactive approach and organizing and planning for an audit will ensure you remain compliant.