Audit Trail

Audit Trail

An audit trail is defined as a paper or ‘electronic’ path that gives a step by step documented history of an activity or process.  

In examining the steps or paths in a given process, the auditor ensures that the samples are linked and come from the same trail. 

When audit samples are taken at different stages of the process that are not related or linked to the initial sample chosen, the auditor will be unable to verify that the process is working, hence cannot establish the effectiveness of the process. 

Different scenarios for audit trail

  1. In a hospital setting;

You want to establish the time taken by a patient to receive the services at a hospital. As an auditor, you will need to pick a patient at random from their medical records, ensure not to pick the personal details. Check and record the time the patient was received at the hospital- you can get this information from the triage records or at the hospital entrance depending on the records kept by the hospital. 

Using the same patient identification, request to see what time the patient was seen by the doctor. Again, this will be based on the records kept by the hospital. Check if this information is in tandem with the hospital’s documented procedures.

If the same patient was sent to the lab, check the procedures for the lab to check the time indicated versus time taken by the same patient.

Lastly, confirm with the pharmacy department the time the patient collected their prescribed medication from the time the lab results were entered into the system by the doctor. 

This audit trail will show how effective the system is compared to the documentation. If you find, for example, the patient took 5 hours to be served while the hospital procedure indicates 2 hours maximum, then the process is not effective.

It is, however, very important to take more than one sample in order to come to an objective conclusion. Remember to follow the audit trail in each of the samples collected. 

  1. In a school setting;

You want to establish if the procedure for disciplinary action is working

Pick on one disciplinary case from the records and check details on when the case was recorded. Confirm if the disciplinary committee held the meeting according to the timelines stipulated in their procedures. Confirm what the findings were and confirm if they were forwarded to the relevant person and the timeframe for forwarding. Check on feedback from the final authority and the date the student was warned or suspended. Determine how long the entire process took and make a judgment based on the standard operating procedures.

  1. In private or public institution  

To establish if the organization’s customer complaint handling procedure is effective

Pick on a complaint that is already lodged and mark the particulars. Check the evidence to show that the complaint was resolved and in the complainant was made aware of the decisions taken by the organization. Check all this against the organization’s procedures and make a judgment if the process is working or not. 

Remember complaint handling is different for private and public organizations. In Kenya for example, the public institutions are supposed to submit quarterly reports to the CAJs office (Commission on Administrative Justice) otherwise known as the Office of Ombudsman. 

Confirm to see how if all the complaints recorded were entered in the quarterly report and if the reports were forwarded to the CAJ. On the quarterly reports, you can pick on a particular year and check if all the reports were forwarded on time. 

  1. In a construction industry

To check if the procedure for Occupational health and safety is being adhered to

Being a legal requirement, you want to establish compliance or non-compliance. It is very important for an auditor to know the requirements of the Occupational Health and Safety Act before embarking on an audit. 

Check to see if all the employees in an organization are trained on this act from the records provided. Establish if representatives from every department have been trained on fire fighting. Check if there are any fire drills in the organization and the frequency of the drills and the reports by the firefighters. 

Check all these against the timelines stipulated in the Act and the forwarding of the and fire drill training reports to the relevant authorities on time.

These are just but examples of the many audit trails that can be picked. If you need any clarifications, comment below and we will be happy to respond as soon as possible.  

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