Audit firms and auditors are core stakeholders of the SIZA programme and valuable partners in compliance for all parties involved in the audit process. Although SIZA remains independent throughout the third-party audit process to protect the credibility of the audit, the SIZA programme needs to ensure that auditors also feel protected and supported during audits.
It is vital that auditees understand what the role of auditors is during the audit process. Auditors are not solely responsible for audit outcomes; they are on farms to evaluate, assess and report on what they see during the audit days. Producers should realise that when they decide to export their product to markets requiring compliance assessments, audits are an essential part of that process and that both parties must treat each other respectfully and with dignity.
It is also worth noting that with the drive to ensure that there is enough capacity to meet the demand, we will have to create a conducive environment where the audit profession is a sought-after career of choice.
Producers have the opportunity to launch a complaint against the behaviour of an auditor during their audit, but parallel with this, an auditor can also launch a complaint against the behaviour of the producer who mistreated or abused him/her during an audit. It is essential to understand auditors’ important role in the value chain by respecting them and supporting them during an audit. It is unacceptable for any party to mistreat, abuse or harm any person involved during this process.
When auditors are abused, threatened, or mistreated during an audit and they feel unsafe in any way, they have the right, according to the SIZA audit methodology, to do the following:
- They have the option to leave the site at any stage, and the audit will be stopped immediately. Naturally, the auditor will need confirmation and approval to leave from the respective audit firm and SIZA. Once this happens, producers need to realise that they are still responsible for the cost of the audit, and if the audit is not completed, there will be no Audit Completion Letter issued to support the export of their product.
- Auditors have permission to raise a finding against the farm if they are mistreated, coerced, or hindered from performing their role by an auditee during the audit process. This will be investigated similar to the procedure that SIZA manages when a complaint is launched against an auditor.
Once Auditors leave the farm, they can also follow the SIZA complaints procedure for auditors to raise a query against the auditee involved. https://siza.co.za/grievance-mechanism/