Amidst the Coronavirus, South Africa promulgated strict lockdown regulations since 27 March 2020. This resulted in limited access to facilities, and audits were not able to continue as usual. SIZA, along with the approved third-party audit companies, effectively designed and implemented a modified audit procedure for the COVID-19 lockdown period by allowing auditors to do 50% of the audit remotely. This must be followed up by an onsite visit once the lockdown period is shifted to a level where auditors can access farms. This process will relate into the issuing of a Provisional Extension Letter, once all corrective actions have been implemented and signed off by the auditor, and until the on-site visit can occur. This will allow producers to continue supplying food and to export, and markets to receive the required visibility and risk management assurance.
From the 1st of May 2020, SIZA Social Audits will continue as normal as auditors can now access facilities during Level 4, depending on the specific lockdown level as communicated by government.
Audits will continue in accordance with the SIZA APM by having an on-site ethical audit conducted by the auditor visiting the facility. This option will be subject to all regulated Occupational Health and Safety regulations, as set out by government. Businesses should furthermore agree to meet the required precautionary measures prior to the auditor visiting the site. These precautionary measures will be communicated by each audit company during the scheduling process.
Due to the precariousness of the virus and changing lockdown regulations and restriction levels, cases might exist where audits cannot continue as normal due to travel restriction, or limited access to the site. Only in these exceptional cases, will members have the option to have audits conducted in two parts over a period of time. The first part of the audit will be a remote/desktop audit review of 50% of the normal audit checklist; and the second part will be a follow-up on-site visit to review the remaining 50% of the checklist once this emergency period is over. This option will only be available during the COVID-19 pandemic period (lockdown Level 5) and exceptional cases where access to the site is not possible. Members should communicate the reasoning for opting for this recourse very clearly.
A total of 68 Ethical audits have partially been conducted remotely thus far during the COVID-19 pandemic, in accordance with the SIZA Audit Procedure during this period. A further 135 audits are scheduled until 31 August 2020. Once lockdown is lifted and access to farms is granted, the onsite verifications will occur to ensure the audits are completed in full, after which the usual SIZA Audit Completion Letter will be issued once all corrective actions have successfully been implemented and approved by the auditor.
The overall feedback indicates that auditors and audit companies have increased their motivation and strategies to assist auditees. The process is running smoothly by dedicated and experienced auditors and audit staff from each company actively engaging with each audit and member, to allow for a fair process to take place.