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Dealing with time pressures

Published: 9 Feb 2021

In our latest dilemma, find out how to avoid delays with audits and ensure they’re delivered within the audit plan’s designated timeframe.

As a certification body auditor, you are assigned to conduct several one-day surveillance audits in the Middle East. The first opening meeting is scheduled for 09.30am and your flight arrives on time at 8.30am. The client has arranged a pick up for you by car to the company, which is a 10-minute drive away. The driver meets you at 9.15am and mentions that your hotel is on the way, so you can drop your baggage off. In spite of being advised that this is not necessary due to time constraints, the driver takes you to the hotel, and says he has a message to deal with and will be back shortly. The time approaches 09.30am, and the driver hasn’t returned, so  you to phone the company to tell them that you are at the hotel awaiting the driver’s return.

The driver returns at 10am and apologises for being late. He suggests that it would be better to take an outer ring road to the company to avoid traffic. On the way, he points out some places of interest, including the new construction for a forthcoming Expo event. You reach the company at 10.30am.

You are taken to the office of the operations manager who advises that a meeting room has been reserved and will be available shortly. In the meantime, he says that the managing director (MD) would like to welcome you in his office. The MD warmly welcomes you and explains that he has arranged for special coffee to be served in the tradition of the country and also invites you to lunch. When you indicate that time is short and might preclude your acceptance of his invitation, he indicates that he will instruct his staff to stay on for as long as necessary. Around 11am, the coffee pot arrives along with various sweetmeats and the  MD begins to regale you with tales of his visits to your country and the business dealings he has undertaken there.

Around 12pm,, the MD says that his executive car and driver is waiting to take you for lunch. He apologises for not being able to join you as he has to take an urgent telephone call. The operations manager escorts you to the car. After lunch, you arrive back at the company to commence the opening meeting at 2pm. The audit plan indicates a closing meeting at 4.30pm.

How should the auditor have dealt with these situations?


The auditor could have insisted on not stopping at the hotel and being taken straight to the company to save time and prevent further delays for the audit. On arrival at the company, the auditor could then suggest that the opening meeting be convened in the operation manager’s office or another available space until the meeting room becomes available.

Regarding the Managing Director’s invitation, the auditor could have stated that he/she would be happy to meet the MD at the opening meeting and join him for a short coffee break during the day as time is of the essence.

As for the lunch invitation, the auditor could insist on a working lunch since so much audit time has already been lost from the morning. As far as staying later is concerned, the auditor could’ve stated that he/she has to prepare for another client audit the next day and must conclude the audit on time to not fall behind.

Thank you Ian Dunlop, CQP FCQI, for providing this scenario.

If you’re interested in submitting a similar piece for our Auditor Dilemmas series, email [email protected]