Due to a multitude of risks within each business, it is crucial that we understand how important it becomes for a buyer, based locally or globally, to have an assessment of a business’s risks and what it has done or could still be done to improve or mitigate those risks. As part of this understanding of risk, audits need to be conducted as they provide an in-depth look and evaluation into the business’s risks – this can include risks on social aspects, environmental assurance or food safety/quality. The auditing process not only protects the business, but also creates trust/assurance throughout the value-chain and supports the South African agricultural industry.
Audit firms and auditors are core stakeholders of SIZA and a valuable partner towards ensuring compliance for all 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 establish support structures and competency requirements for auditors. It is also important that producers understand the role of auditors during the audit process. Auditors are not solely responsible for audit outcomes but are responsible to drive improvement through their expert evaluation of potential risks within each business. Auditors visit farms to evaluate, assess and report on business practices. The auditor can only report on what is available to them to see, hear and read about during the audit. Auditors do not decide on the audit outcomes or grading on their own in isolation. There is a rigorous process in place allowing for various control points to ensure a valid and correct outcome is achieved.
It is important to realise and respect the value of auditors in the value chain, because without assessing risk and carrying out audits, markets will not accept the products from the business. It is important that all parties treat each other with respect and dignity.