Audit trails are essential in many areas of business and industry – but they’re especially important if you’re subcontracting any element of your service out to a third-party supplier or contractor.
First things first: what exactly is an audit trail? An audit trail is essentially a set of chronological records which provide evidence of a sequence of events. So if you hire a contractor, your audit trail will show everything from the first contact with that contractor to the initial signing of the agreement between you both, and every service that contractor has provided since. Every transaction must be recorded, and most business record all communications between people, systems and accounts, as part of keeping a good audit trail.
There are a multitude of benefits to keeping a good audit trail, the first of which being that audit trails can help you to detect fraud within your business. If there is a strong audit trail policy in place within your business, you’ll be able to prove the authenticity and legitimacy of all transactions that go through your business, including those from subcontractors. Each one will need to have the appropriate supporting documents (invoices or orders, for example), helping to detect fraud when it happens and serving to lower the likelihood of it happening again.
The legal benefits of creating a good audit trail are also of paramount importance. If there is some kind of dispute with you and your third-party supplier, or if one of your own clients is dissatisfied with the service or product they’ve received from the third-party, you can go back and look at the audit trail left to clear up the matter with ease. If all communications are logged, and all transactions kept on record, any disputes can be easily resolved by going back over the records to decipher who was at fault.
Keeping a strong audit trail also improves your risk management capabilities. You’ll be able to keep track of who was doing what, at what time, and where. You can demonstrate to your clients and partners that every effort is being made to prevent problems, contributing to the overall risk management strategy of your organisation.
ISO 9001 is the world’s most common Quality Management System (QMS) which can help you put a bulletproof audit trail into place. The certification is designed to help your business meet the expectations and needs of your customers, as well as delivering a consistent experience to them. By taking a risk-based approach, firms can guarantee greater operational efficiency – and there’s always a document-based contingency plan in place, should things ever go awry.
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