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Short-Notice Audits add to the rigour of independent audits

Short-notice audits add to the rigour of independent quality assurance and its potential to induce systemic changes in the aid sector.

November 2020

HQAI takes seriously any reliable information of potential breaches in the compliance of a certified organisation with the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) on Quality and Accountability. If robustly documented, such alleged facts trigger automatically Short-Notice Audits (SNAs) outside of the normal cycle of certification.
SNAs check the ongoing compliance of the targeted organisation with the CHS in the light of these facts and can lead to corrective action requests, even suspension of a certificate if they denote a weakness in the application of the standard.

An example to illustrate the background

A recent Short-Notice Audit was triggered by an investigation by the New Humanitarian (TNH) and the Thomson Reuters Foundation (TRF) that uncovered over 50 cases of sexual misconduct by aid workers from UN agencies and international NGOs in the Congolese Ebola response. The article mentioned a case related to one aid worker of an organisation certified by HQAI.

In this specific case, the SNA confirmed the continued compliance with the CHS - in line with the results of HQAI’s annual audits of the organisation.

The process and result of short-notice audits

A Short-Notice Audit is triggered whenever reliable information suggests a possible breach of compliance with the CHS. Such reliable information can come from the media, whistleblowers or plaintiffs. In the above-mentioned example the trigger was a well-documented press article on sexual exploitation and abuse. HQAI auditors looked specifically at the safeguarding mechanisms of the certified organisation and whether it complies with the CHS.

All SNAs result in a report published by HQAI indicating whether the certificate of the audited organisation is maintained, suspended or withdrawn.

The rigour and robustness of the CHS and independent quality assurance

Sexual exploitation and abuse undermine the aid sector as a whole. Striking power inequalities between representatives of organisations and vulnerable and at-risk people open the door to predators. There is consensus that the aid sector must take action now. One effective way to catalyse change is to drive up standards and ensure they are consistently met. This is where the CHS and HQAI have significant potential.

HQAI assesses organisations against the CHS. The CHS is a widely recognised standard on quality and accountability in the aid sector. It includes strong requirements on safeguarding mechanisms and indicators to measure their performance. More on the CHS here.

HQAI’s auditing processes are robust and annually assessed by an independent accreditation body. We are confident they provide a high level of assurance regarding the quality and accountability of CHS-certified organisations. Short-notice audits are built in the system and add another layer of robustness to the whole certification scheme. This creates trust in the process and the responsibility of organisations that are certified against the CHS.