One of the indicators in the NDIS Quality Indicator Guidelines refers to the organisation’s quality management system and the role of continuous improvement, reviews and updates throughout all aspects of service delivery activity. This means that improvements and review processes need to be demonstrated, not just talked about!
Internal audits provide opportunities to review a range of service practices, including but not limited to complaints, feedback, suggestions for improvement, situations where risk may have occurred or may be apparent, incidents and accidents as well as critical incidents, situations where regulated or unregulated restrictive practices have been used, staff file content, participant file content and governance practices – the list goes on! The focus of internal audits is on consistency, evidence and outcomes that are continually reviewed to support evidence-informed practice, as well as to assure the organisation and its customers that it is delivering services at the best possible level.
As organisations prepare for their NDIS audits, there is an expectation that they will be able to demonstrate the work undertaken by internal auditors. These are people who can:
- Objectively assess the service’s business and customer delivery processes
- Assess the organisation’s risks and the efficacy of its risk management efforts
- Assess where there is inconsistency as well as areas where there is sound and reliable practice
- Ensure that the organisation is complying with relevant laws, regulations and rules
- Evaluate internal control practices and make recommendations on how to improve
- Provide an independent and objective assessment of the service’s operations, specifically the effectiveness of its internal control structure
- Identify areas that could be / must be improved
- Identify areas that can build the reputation of the service
- Encourage staff to strengthen and improve their practices
- Encourage discussion about better ways to do things
- Document findings in reports that can be used to monitor progress towards continual improvement
This is important work and naturally enough requires auditors who have a number of skills in order to professionally conduct internal audits. You might think that only managers can do this type of work, but this is not the case. Some of the most effective internal auditors are people who have an active understanding about how the systems work in their area, or where they have a passion for improvement. Over the years, I have met effective and dedicated internal auditors who have been hands-on therapists, operations staff, administration staff as well as support workers. Regardless of their background, the skills these people need to have include (but are not limited to):
- Effective analytical and critical thinking
- High level inter-personal and written communication skills
- The ability to analyse data and systems practices as well as have business acumen
- Self-motivation, determination and confidence along with meticulous attention to detail
- Excellent problem-solving skills
- A keen interest in the community service delivery system
- The ability to work to deadlines, sometimes under pressure
Most often, successful internal auditors are passionate about strengthening their organisation to help it to be the best that it can be. While there may be internal auditors who simply use a ‘tick box’ approach in their auditing role, I have found that people who have effective interpersonal skills are able to engage staff and other stakeholders to understand the reasons for the internal audit – or what needs to be done to resolve issues that may need to be addressed from the process. Internal audits are not a one-off event: they are conducted throughout the year and often provide valued insights into areas where practices are working well or where there is a need to make improvements so that unnecessary risks may not be as likely to occur.
The quality and calibre of the internal auditor is a critically important role in any organisation, and they will certainly play an integral part not only in the preparations for your NDIS audit but for the overall benefit of the organisation and its practices. Selecting the right person is only part of the story: ensuring they are aware about what a professional internal auditor can do and achieve as well as how their role benefits your organisation is important for them to know. Training people to undertake this role is just the beginning…
Only About Quality provides targeted training programs for organisations requiring internal auditors as well as ongoing mentoring and coaching practices for new as well as established internal auditors. Our trainers have had many years of practical experience in managing state as well as NDIS registered services that support people with disabilities and have a dedicated commitment towards positive internal auditing experiences.
If you are interested in training and ongoing support of your internal auditors, contact Only About Quality now.
We look forward to hearing from you about your requirements soon!