If you work for an RTO, chances are you are somewhat familiar with the term ‘Audit’. But fear not! Here, we discuss the RTO audit process, including what you can do to be ready for an audit, as well as the ways in which a compliance audit can actually be a helpful tool when measuring your RTO’s business health (yes we said it!).
What You Can Do to Be Ready For an Audit
The saying “if you’re prepared you shall not fear” may not have been written about RTO audits, but the philosophy still applies.
If your RTO is using compliant practices then ‘preparing’ for audit won’t be necessary. In fact, an RTO that makes an effort to be compliant in all areas of business should welcome the analysis and view it as an opportunity to exhibit their competitive edge.
You must ensure that your RTO is fulfilling its obligations during each phase of the learner journey.
This is a long-term strategy that helps you stay compliant and isn’t something that can be done last minute. This includes:
- Taking part in regular self-assessment (you can access ASQA’s self-assessment tool here)
- Making sure your practices align with your documented systems and processes. Having a Training and Assessment Strategy is a good start!
- Get familiar with ASQA’s Audit Resources. There are fact sheets with detailed information about their student-centred approach, FAQs to help you understand the audit process, student survey and remedial action, and general information and assistance for RTOs
Being prepared well ahead of time means knowing what your compliance requirements are and working within these parameters to stay compliant always.
Important note: Last minute ‘audit preparation’ won’t have any significant affect on the outcome. ASQA auditors will be looking at your long-term operations and conduct and how this relates to the student learning experience. The outcome will depend on whether the student learning experience complies with the Standards and Clauses and if you meet governmental regulations.
When Will a Compliance Audit Likely Happen?
The short answer is… ASQA can schedule an audit at any time.
An audit and site inspection may be scheduled during the registration application process. This is to confirm that the evidence you’ve submitted is complete and accurate and to make sure that your facilities and resources are suitable for training and assessment.
Before attending your site, ASQA will:
- Inform you about which training products and sites will be reviewed
- Collect information from a wide range of sources, including other government agencies
- Request additional information from you, including your TAS, delivery data or student information so they can send them the student survey
The site visit is only one piece of a compliance audit puzzle. ASQA can also collect evidence before and after the visit, including from your website and social media channels to guide their assessment of your marketing and advertising practices.
Additionally, an audit will usually be performed within two years of initial registration to make sure you are operating as intended. An audit will also occur when a risk intelligence assessment finds that an RTO is not meeting its regulatory obligations.
How Much Notice Will You Receive?
The typical notification period for a compliance audit is one to three months. However, there are some cases where the notice period will be shorter, or there may be none at all. An audit without notice can take place when:
- ASQA believes students may be at risk
- There are serious concerns about a provider’s practices
An email will be sent to the CEO’s registered contact address on training.gov.au notifying your RTO about the audit.
What Happens During an Audit?
Each audit is customised to the individual RTO or training provider. The extent of the audit will depend on their compliance history along with ASQA’s risk intelligence gathering. This means that training providers who are high risk with an unfavourable compliance history or low student outcomes will be subject to a more extensive audit.
Most of the time, a visit to the physical training site will take place. The duration and scope of the visit will depend on the size of of the facility and the extent of the audit.
Auditors will make an effort to confirm the evidence you’ve supplied them. This will include:
- Reviewing the students’ experience (ie. assessments)
- Reviewing facilities and equipment to ensure adequacy
- Reviewing other information such as websites and social media channels
- Interviewing students about providers claims
- Interviewing trainers and assessors
- Contacting third parties when required
Are You Charged for Compliance Audits?
Yes. ASQA’s compliance audit charge is $275 per auditor, per hour. These charges apply to all time spent on:
- Planning the audit
- Conducting the audit
- Preparing the audit report
- Any related business processes
You are also expected to reimburse all reasonable costs incurred by ASQA if any part of the audit is conducted outside of Australia, including travel costs.
The good news is, ASQA has decided to help ease the financial pressure on training providers and will waive some fees and charges invoiced from 1 January 2020 to 30 June 2021.
Fees not included in the relief package include:
- Initial registration as an RTO
- Initial registration on the CRICOS
- Initial accreditation of a VET course (for new course owners)
For more information on fees and charges relief, click here.
Operating an RTO is a challenging and rewarding endeavour. Even with ASQA taking a stricter approach regarding RTO standards, it is possible to be prepared in the case of an unexpected audit. It is a good idea to stay up to date with ASQA’s requirements and to invest in an effective online solution that will keep you compliant and ahead of the game come audit time.