The Association of Safety Auditing Firms (ASAF) is concerned with a viewpoint raised by Mr Yoong Chi Meng, auditor of Ace EHS Singapore (Loopholes in regime to protect workers' health: Experts, March 31).
He said there is potential conflict of interest in the process of appointing auditors. He was quoted in the article as saying: "Auditors are engaged by the companies. If a company is not happy with (an auditor) giving them bad reports, what's an auditor going to do?"
When a company appoints an auditor directly, it does not necessarily result in conflict of interest. This is akin to companies appointing their own third-party financial auditors.
Auditing organisations (AOs) and their workplace safety and health (WSH) auditors are accredited by Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and Singapore Accreditation Council (SAC), who at all times conduct due diligence when carrying out an audit, based on truth, independence and no bias. All findings must be flagged as a requirement of an auditor.
They are not to be influenced by any conflicting issues, be it pricing, report presentations, and so on, so as to retain their clients. We believe all those being audited want true and unbiased reports that help in their WSH management.
Auditors are also required to comply with the WSH (Safety and Health Management System and Auditing) Regulations 2009 mandated by MOM or face penalties for violations.
Key guidelines are also reflected in SAC Criteria for Accreditation of Auditing Organisations (SAC CT 17), which auditors are to comply with.
ASAF members also abide by a Code of Professional Ethics.
Thus, there is no need for MOM to assign "auditors at random" to companies, as Mr Yoong suggested. Perhaps, for projects requiring three or more audits, a company can appoint two different AOs to conduct the audits within the stipulated period, for counter-checking.
Mr Yoong's suggestion for MOM to regulate auditor fees can be perceived as anti-competitive and discourages productivity. Rather, companies undergoing audit should appoint AOs based on their own evaluation of AO's and auditors' experience and competencies other than pricing alone.
The objective of WSH auditing is to prepare a true and unbiased report to help in enhancing the safety and health of workplaces. This can be achieved only if the audits are conducted independently and professionally.
President, Association of Safety Auditing Firms