This month we are focusing on the audit phase itself, and a good place to begin is by addressing some common misconceptions about audit:

Common misconceptions about audit:
There are many misconceptions about the audit process.  Often people think audits are too difficult, take up a lot of time in planning and pre-work and cause a significant interruption to the organisation.  In addition, the thought of being assessed against a large number of Indicators can sometimes feel overwhelming for the Church entity.  The CPSL audit process recognises these concerns and aims to provide a clear pathway for the audit, with a focus on capacity building: when we audit, we will be identifying strengths within the organisation, in addition to any areas for improvement.  The audit should be viewed as a positive activity, designed to bring value to the Church entity by:
1) Giving assurance that they are complying with the relevant areas of the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards (NCSS); and
2) Assisting the entity to develop and implement strategies for improvement, in particular by identifying any “blind spots” or areas of risk for the Church entity that need to be reviewed and addressed. 

There is another misconception that an entity needs to be “100% ready” prior to undertaking an audit. This is not the case. In the lead up to the commencement of the audit fieldwork, we require the Church entity to prepare a self-assessment of their compliance with the NCSS – this gives a good indication of what is already in place and what still needs to be addressed.  We normally find that the best result is when the Church entity believes they are around 70-80% ready at which point the auditor can come in and review what’s in place and what is still to be addressed and make recommendations for what would be sufficient and practical to achieve compliance.  This can help the entity from “over-complicating” the implementation of the NCSS and ensure that safeguarding policies and procedures are fit for purpose and tailored for the entity.

What does the audit fieldwork consist of?
During the audit fieldwork, CPSL will review the key safeguarding policies, procedures and practices in place, as well as interviewing a random sample of parishes (for a diocese) or members (for a religious institute) to determine how well they understand the organisation’s safeguarding policies and how these are applied in their daily work and ministries.  The audit requires CPSL to speak to a range of people, including the safeguarding officer, complaints handling officer (or professional standards officer), HR co-ordinator, and training co-ordinator etc.  In some smaller organisations, these areas may be handled by one or two persons and in other organisations, we may need to speak with multiple departments. 

What happens after the audit fieldwork has been completed?
Once the initial fieldwork is completed, CPSL will prepare a preliminary assessment of compliance against each relevant Indicator of the NCSS and this will be discussed at a debrief meeting with the Church entity’s leadership team.  At this point, there will be an opportunity for the Church entity to provide further information or to update/refresh policies or procedures in order to improve its compliance position.  This period of the audit can span over several weeks as we usually find that most entities are eager to grab the “quick wins” identified from the preliminary assessment and update/improve certain processes in order to move towards a better overall compliance result prior to the end of the audit.

The audit report
Once we have received and reviewed all additional information, CPSL will update the preliminary assessment and prepare a formal audit report, including recommendations. The report is discussed in detail with the Church entity and the entity provides comments on the recommendations, indicating what action they are going to take to respond to each recommendation, as well as agreeing to a deadline for implementation.
 It is only after this stage that the report is finalised and published.

To begin discussing a safeguarding audit with CPSL and to obtain a copy of the Schedule 2, please contact Tania Stegemann, Director of Compliance – or call 1300 603 411.


Demystifying audit series

Step 1: Completing the Schedule 2

Step 2: Executing the Service Agreement