There is no “one-size-fits-all” method to the ISO 37001 Audit Process to achieve the anti-bribery management systems certification

There’s been much discussion surrounding ISO 37001:2016 Anti-Bribery Management Systems and the ways that attaining certification to the standard can enhance an organisation’s existing anti-corruption compliance program.

The ISO 37001:2016 standard specifies a series of measures and controls to help organisations prevent, detect and address bribery.  These measures include adopting an anti-bribery policy, appointing an individual to oversee anti-bribery compliance, training, risk assessments and due diligence on projects and business associates, implementing financial and commercial controls, and instituting reporting, investigation and monitoring procedures.

CRI Group’s ABAC™ will be hosting a paid webinar on the 30th of September exploring the Pitfalls Most Organisations Often Commit – the importance of implementing Anti-Bribery Management System (ABMS). Being a part of the solution means being able to share our expert knowledge on what would be best for your organisation.

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Our webinar will have a rundown of the following:

  • What are the core Bribery and Corruption Risks for Financial Institution?
  • How to protect financial institutions and corporations from bribery and corruption risk
  • Reparations from bribery that could affect the businesses, clients, and employees
  • Successful regulations to mitigate risk for bribery and corruption.
  • What can be done if bribery is detected?
  • Internationally recognised solutions laid forth by ISO 37001: Anti-Bribery Management System that gives businesses effective controls to mitigate risk
  • Components of risk management at a financial institution

Certification of compliance with the standard is based on an impartial, independent third-party review, assessment and audit of the organisation’s anti-bribery management system and the versatility, effectiveness and proactive nature of said system.

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The compliance audit itself has too often been referred to as a “one-size-fits-all” or “check-the-box” subjective process, which couldn’t be further from the truth.  Proper certification to the standard requires a substantial amount of preparation and self-assessment beforehand; a highly involved review, interview and audit process (often involving a sampling of affiliated or regional offices); and an evaluation and monitoring phase which is annually conducted over the three-year certification cycle.

Let’s take a brief look at the audit process and examine why large multi-national companies such as Walmart, Microsoft, Alstom and a host of others have weighed the costs and benefits, and subsequently committed to attaining ISO 37001:2016 certification.

An Evidence-Based Review; A Risk-Based Approach

The ABMS audit is a diligent approach that links auditing activity to an organisation’s overall risk management framework, providing assurance to top management that risk management processes are effectively addressing all bribery risks throughout the organisation and its operations.

It should be noted that the certification audit isn’t solely structured on a review of paper-based controls.  As you’ll read below, the process assesses the organisation’s overarching stance on anti-bribery and how that stance is conveyed — tangibly and intangibly — from the board of directors right down to lower-level staff members.

Employing interviews, policy reviews, sampling, due diligence and testing of methods and techniques, the audit will produce sufficient evidence of a sound anti-bribery management system, while spotlighting specific areas of risk that demand attention and subsequent improvement to adhere to the standard.

Certified Auditors; ISO 37001 Anti-Bribery Experts

First and foremost, ISO 37001:2016 auditors must be specifically certified and credentialed in order to lead and conduct such audits.  Auditors are guided by the requirements of ISO 17021-9 to conduct an ABMS assessment.  To attain this status, auditors must undergo intensive training to fully comprehend the concepts and principles behind the various ISO management systems compliance, and the corresponding specifications and auditing techniques associated with those ISO guidelines.  From that training, auditors will gain the necessary knowledge and skills to effectively plan and perform related audits.

Further — and just as vital — auditing professionals must possess considerable experience in the areas of anti-bribery and anti-corruption, and have deep-seated knowledge of the industry sectors and the respective geographic regions (with a familiarity of the legal jurisdictions) served by the organisation being certified.

And finally, the ISO 37001:2016 auditor must be qualified to serve as a helpful, non-confrontational advocate during the entire audit process, expertly guiding the organisation through the process with the shared goal of achieving outcomes that will ultimately fortify the organisation’s commitment to battling instances of bribery in the global marketplace.

The ISO 37001 Audit Process

The process, which adheres closely to ISO 19011 requirements, begins well in advance of the on-site visit, with the auditor conducting a thorough analysis of news, social media and other public domain information pertaining to the organisation.  This outside review oftentimes helps the auditor determine the organisation’s perceived “culture of compliance” prior to initiating the audit.

The audit process itself is a critical assessment of a number of crucial elements that are required by the ISO 37001:2016 standard, and a determination of how the overall policy is represented by the various roles and responsibilities throughout the organisation.  The process entails:

  • A review of the organisation’s anti-bribery policies, procedures and controls;
  • An assessment of the organisation’s plan for communicating its polices to all employees worldwide;
  • In-depth interviews with compliance personnel, leadership, management, and legal, finance, procurement, human resource and communications staff members to assess familiarity with the policies and comprehension levels for identifying and responding to red flag events;
  • A review of all procedures and instructors involved with the organisation’s anti-bribery training;
  • Performing risk assessments specific to particular projects, industries, regions, jurisdictions and third-parties associated with the organisation;
  • Conducting due diligence on third-party partners (by region);
  • Assessment of monitoring, reporting and investigation procedures as related to anti-bribery events;
  • Bench-marking the organisation’s overall commitment to its anti-bribery policy and management systems;
  • Assessment of the organisation’s financial controls to detect and prevent incidences of bribery;
  • Review of all corrective actions to the policy following a bribery investigation;
  • Confirmation of the organisation’s attempt at continuous improvement of the anti-bribery management system.

And throughout the various processes of observation, document review, sampling, interviews, technical verification and evaluation, the audit team is constantly meeting and communicating through the proper channels to assist the organisation in identifying risks and improving its processes and procedures.

The audit process can take weeks or months to complete, and needless to say, this process varies widely between organisations, industry sectors and geographic regions.


Reporting & Documentation

Post-audit, the team convenes an oversight board comprised of anti-bribery experts to review the audit reports and findings, and makes recommendations to both the organisation and the certification committee.

The ensuing documentation covers a host of topics, including risk areas (by project, personnel group, and geographic region), training recommendations, investigative techniques, reporting processes, and other areas of improvement.


Follow-Up Surveillance Audits to Ensure Continuous Improvement

The certification process doesn’t end after the initial audit phase. Certification to the standard requires verification of continuous improvement and confirmation of how outcomes are implemented, documented, monitored and assessed over time.  To achieve this, the audit team will conduct annual surveillance audits of the organisation’s anti-bribery system over the three-year certification cycle.  Surveillance audits verify the organisation’s continued adherence to the standard, evaluate any prescribed corrective action plans, and review what the organisation is doing to improve its anti-bribery management systems.

Certification in ISO 37001:2016 symbolises an organisation’s unrelenting commitment to fight corruption and pursue best practices in an ongoing quest for compliance to the widely-accepted anti-bribery standards.  And the in-depth process involved in achieving certification to the standard — together with the counsel, risk assessment, and improvement recommendations that result from the audit — can make the certification process well worth the investment.

This paid webinar will be running from the following times on Thursday the 30th of September;

  • 08:00 to 10:00 GMT
  • 15:00 to 17:00 MYT
  • 12:00 to 14:00 GST

Your turnout with come with a certificate of Attendance (COA) as well as a complimentary webinar ABMS Awareness for 2 Pax per company. While you’re there, why not attain a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) certificate and stay on top of your industry?

Register your place for this webinar here and find out how to tackle the issue of bribery and corruption in your workplace before it has time to manifest itself into a greater issue. Finance is the greatest asset to the economy after all.

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