Accept, Excuse, Deny, Ignore … (it’s cheaper)

Lately I have been following and contributing to a debate in the IRCA LinkedIn discussion group. The basic thrust being the question as to why an auditee might elect to accept a questionable finding from a third party management systems auditor (quite a common occurrence, I think you’ll agree). My view is that, provided the finding is not a major NCR and the expected corrective action is not expensive, they just decide its a battle they can’t be bothered to have. They want to get back to work.

Anyway, the debate continued and one dimension to the argument developed that suggested it was at least partly the auditee’s responsibility to reign the auditor in on those occasions. That bothers me. Let’s just think this through. Are we suggesting the CB uses the auditee as its quality control? Isn’t that something we are taught we are just NOT supposed to be doing?

The biggest thing that bothered me was the general defence put up in favour of the CBs not really needing to do anything to monitor the competence of their auditors. It was all “the auditee should do this, the auditee should do that, if they don’t it’s their fault”. I simply can’t agree. It is fairly and squarely the CBs responsibility to execute the process to an acceptable standard, and to satisfy themselves that this is happening. Despite the fact that to accept, excuse, deny and ignore the problem is more convenient (and most significantly CHEAPER) it is not an acceptable position for a CB to take. We should not offer them a “get out of jail free” card that they are only going to seize with both hands. The root of the problem is that more robust controls cost money and they do not want to raise the price of the commodity. Third party certification is a very price sensitive industry and this always, without regulation, leads to a race to the bottom, which is what we have.

Remember, when the boot is on the other foot, and they audit you and your management system against the competence requirements, do they allow you to use your customers as the quality control? You can’t have it both ways.

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3 Responses to Accept, Excuse, Deny, Ignore … (it’s cheaper)

  1. Richard Allan says:

    I find it a little ironic that we frequently discuss the often poor capability of ISO9001 auditors yet think it will be difficult to show such an auditor that their finding may be incorrect.
    Is it much effort for a quality manager to win the argument using basic interpretation of the standard and logical examples?
    I suspect winning the argument takes less effort & expense than implementing an unnecessary corrective action.
    Also, the CB knows quality managers are not going to accept questionable findings as the certification business will just be given to more “friendly” auditors.
    For me the far bigger issue is not a few questionable findings but that auditors frequently do not find or report significant and obvious non-conformances.

    or perhaps the issue is that CBs continue to have to walk a thin line between keeping and losing certification business and their accreditation.
    Auditors may keep the accreditation bodies happy by reporting a few NCRs, which an organization may think are questionnable but very easy to fix, and keep the organization happy by overlooking the serious failures & which the accreditation body is totally unaware of.

    Some auditees may think it better to accept the few questionable findings in return for not having a more rigorous and capable auditor reveal their major weaknesses.

    It’s a very murky world.

  2. Jane Bennett says:

    I completely agree with you Shaun and for the reasons you lay out.
    The auditor is THE face of the CB as far as the customer is concerned. And the CB absolutely must take the responsibility for them and not leave it up to their clients to correct them! I will always protest with a CB where it’s justified, but I expect them to do something about it. If they don’t, we walk, sooner or later.
    It’s not a matter of friendly/non friendly, but getting some kind of reasonable value from the certification. Which is what we have a right to expect and demand.
    Blind eyes and murky worlds are not good for any of us.

  3. Shaun says:

    It bothers me that I never (and I mean NEVER) see a representative of a CB taking criticism of this sort on the chin. More often the customer is simply blamed. Highly convenient and very depressing. Thanks for reading and commenting, Jane

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