In my last corporate position, my company was at the cutting edge because we required compliance related audits for vendors in the supply chain. This was cutting edge in 2007-08. However, now an audit for adherence to compliance requirements has become a standard best practice in the management of business relationships with third party vendors which work with a company through the supply chain. In several settlements of enforcement actions through both Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPA) and Non-Prosecution Agreements (NPA), in the 2012 FCPA Guidance, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and most recently in the Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs; made it clear that a best practices FCPA compliance program includes the right to conduct audits of the books and records of its suppliers to ensure compliance. Many companies have yet to begin their audit process for FCPA compliance on vendors in their supply chain. I find this to be a missed opportunity from both the compliance perspective and greater business efficiency.

Initially it should be noted that a company must obtain the right to audit for compliance in its contract with any third-party vendor in the supply chain. Such an audit right should be a part of a company’s standard terms and conditions. A sample clause could include language such as the following:

The vendor shall permit, upon the request of and at sole discretion of the Company, audits by independent auditors acceptable to Company, and agree that such auditors shall have full and unrestricted access to, and to conduct reviews of, all records related to the work performed for, or services or equipment provided to, Company, and to report any violation of any of the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, UK Bribery Act or any other applicable laws and regulations, with respect to:

  1. the effectiveness of existing compliance programs and codes of conduct;
  2. the origin and legitimacy of any funds paid to Company;
  3. its books, records and accounts, or those of any of its subsidiaries, joint ventures or affiliates, related to work performed for, or services or equipment provided to, Company;
  4. all disbursements made for or on behalf of Company; and
  5. all funds received from Company in connection with work performed for, or services or equipment provided to, Company. 

In Industrial Engineer Magazine, in an article entitled, “Dynamic Changes” authors Tariq Aldowaisan and Elaf Ashkanani discussed the audit program utilized by the Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC) for its supply chain vendors. Although the focus of these audits is not to review FCPA compliance, the referenced audits are designed to detect and report incidents of non-compliance, which would also be the goal of a FCPA compliance audit. Utilizing ISO 19011 as the basis to set the parameters of an audit, the authors define an audit as a “systematic, independent and documented process for obtaining audit evidence and evaluating it objectively to determine the extent to which the audit criteria are fulfilled.” The authors list three factors, which they believe contribute to a successful audit: (1) an effective audit program which specifies all necessary activities for the audit; (2) having competent auditors in place; and (3) an organization that is committed to being audited. More simply, the action steps for the process can be described as one to (1) capture the data; (2) analyze the data; and (3) report on the data.

There is no one specific list of transactions or other items which should be audited, however some of the audit best practices would suggest the following:

  • Review of contracts with supply chain vendors to confirm that the appropriate compliance terms and conditions are in place.
  • Determine that actual due diligence took place on the third-party vendor.
  • Review compliance training program; both the substance of the program and attendance records.
  • Does the third-party vendor have a hotline or any other reporting mechanism for allegations of compliance violations? If so how are such reports maintained. Review any reports of compliance violations or issues that arose through anonymous, hotline or any other reporting mechanism.
  • Does the third-party vendor have written employee discipline procedures? If so have any employees been disciplined for any compliance violations? If yes review all relevant files relating to any such violations to determine the process used and the outcome reached.
  • Review expense reports for employees in high risk positions or high risk countries.
  • Testing for gifts, travel and entertainment which were provided to, or for, foreign governmental officials.
  • Review the overall structure of the third-party vendor’s compliance program. If the company has a designated compliance officer to whom, and how, does that compliance officer report? How is the third-party vendor’s compliance program designed to identify risks and what has been the result of any so identified.
  • Review a sample of employee commission payments and determine if they follow the internal policy and procedure of the third-party vendor.
  • Regarding any petty cash activity in foreign locations, review a sample of activity and apply analytical procedures and testing. Analyze the general ledger for high-risk transactions and cash advances and apply analytical procedures and testing. 

 This list is not exhaustive. For instance, there could be an audit focus on internal controls or segregation of duties. Any organization which audits a business partner in its supply chain should consult with legal, audit, financial and supply chain professionals to determine the full scope of the audit and a thorough and complete work plan should be created based upon all these professional inputs. After an audit, an audit report should be issued. This audit report should detail incidents of non-compliance with the compliance program and recommendations for improvements. Any reported incidents of non-compliance should reference the basis of any incidents of non-compliance such as contractual clauses, legal requirement or company policies.

Three Key Takeaways

  1. Is your supply chain vendor committed to the audit process?
  2. Capture the data, analyze the data, report on the data.
  3. Supply Chain audits are no longer cutting edge but are now simply best practices.

 

For more information on how an independent monitor can help improve your company’s ethics and compliance program, visit this month’s sponsor Affiliated Monitors at www.affiliatedmonitors.com.

 

Software platforms can provide a lot of efficiencies such as a reduction of time, resources and a more manageable audit trail. Still, software cannot do everything. Subject matter expertise is still essential to building a quality supplier risk management programme.

Combining the right platform with bench strength will lead to better risk analysis and supplier communications.
In this podcast, I visit with Jared Connors, Mrg. of Supply Chain Solutions for the Red Flag Group on the benefits of using a software technology platform combined with bench strength to help build a more effective risk management programme. We discuss:

  • The benefits of a quality technology platform approach
  • Automating processes and increasing the audit trail efficiency
  • The value of subject matter expertise and risk analysis

Jared and I will explore these topics further in a Red Flag Group Webinar on Thursday, October 20 at 10 AM CDT. You can register by clicking here.