What Is The Secret To Less Frequent Audits?

I am a big believer in quality management systems. Done well, they lead to better service, keep people safe and alleviate administrative pressure (no that that was not a typo). But when they don’t work, they are an absolute nightmare to manage and everyone starts getting resentful. A common complaint we hear from providers in our workshops is about the hefty financial investment required to document and implement yet another new system, and let’s not get started on the audit costs! For this reason, it is so important to invest in a system that achieves results, is embedded in the organisation and helps you do your job. We think the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Framework is a real opportunity to rethink those traditional onerous systems. Margins are too lean to maintain anything superfluous to our needs.

We get lots of questions about how organisations are going to be assessed under the new framework. The National Disability Insurance Scheme (Approved Quality Auditors Scheme) Guidelines 2018 are a great document to help you understand how the audit process is going to go down.  

We know that organisations that are certified against the core module (and any supplementaries) on a three-year cycle, are with 12 monthly surveillance audits. However, if you scroll down to Section 21 on surveillance monitoring, you’ll find this:

(8)   If the following good performance criteria are met, surveillance (monitoring) activity may be reduced by the Commission if the Commissioner and the approved quality auditor consider this appropriate, to a single on-site audit, planned as close as possible to eighteen months following the date of recertification:

(a)    The NDIS provider has demonstrated continuous improvement methodology within its organisational culture as evidenced by ratings of conformity with elements of best practice in the previous certification cycle;

(b)   the NDIS provider has not been subject to sanctions, conditions, or other limitations on its registration by the Commission;

(9)   Where a registered NDIS provider satisfies this requirement the Commission may modify the existing surveillance (monitoring) audit date.

Wait. Did they just say we might possibly be able to reduce our surveillance audits to 18 months if we can demonstrate best practice and a culture of continuous improvement over a certification cycle? That’s huge! And what a clever incentive to invest in quality. So, what’s the criteria? It comes in the form of audit ratings of 3. We interpret this to mean that providers will need to go above and beyond standard conformity. The guidelines state that:

Table with the following information. Rating: 3. Attainment Level: Conformity with elements of best practice. Interpretation: The NDIS provider can clearly demonstrate conformity with best practice against the criteria. Best practice is demonstrated through innovative, responsive service delivery, underpinned by the principles of continuous improvement of the systems, processes and associated with the outcomes.

So, if the opportunity to be an effective organisation known for its innovation, responsive service delivery and continuous improvement was not enough to convince the board to invest in our quality management systems, we now have a financial incentive as well!

No doubt it will take time to start getting those ratings of 3. These practice standards are completely new after all. But they are also refreshingly intuitive and Participant orientated, which makes it easier to engage the whole organisation. We reckon the earlier we begin to reflect on how to best meet Participant outcomes and improve their services, the quicker those 3 star ratings will come knocking.