The different roles of the Consultant, the Auditor and the Certification Body

In Australia there is a specific way in which the certification process is completed for all major certificates including ISO 9001, ISO 14001, AS/NZS 4801, HACCP, Freshcare, NHVAS and more certifications.

There are three contributors to the Certification jigsaw puzzle. 

Consultants

Unlike an auditor a consultant is someone who can provide you with specialist advice to ensure that your management systems will meet the certification requirements. 
 
Consultants work with you to ensure you have robust management systems in place to run your business and will also ensure that these management systems comply with the requirements of the particular standards for which certification is being sought. While it is not necessary to have a consultant this can be a cost effective way to ensure your management systems are effective and your consultant will be able to advise when they believe you are ready for certification.
 
A consultant cannot make statements that certification will be simpler, faster or less expensive if a specific certification body is used.
 
A certification body cannot state or imply that certification would be simpler, easier, faster or less expensive if a specified consultancy organisation is used.
 

The Auditor

The auditor will conduct the audit on behalf of the Certification Body and will report their findings back to the Certification Body. While an audit report will normally identify areas for improvement in addition to any non compliances discovered during the audit the auditor is not allowed to provide advice  on how to address specific problems. This is to preserve the independence and impartiality of the certification process. 
The auditor can also conduct a GAP audit to identify any gaps between your current systems and the requirements of a particular standard and provide you with a report. This must however be done separately from the certification process. A GAP audit can be  a useful tool to help you assess how much work needs to be done and you may wish to hire a consultant to help you put a plan in place.

The Certification Body

The Certification Body is the entity who issues the certificate of compliance against a specific standard. This Certification Body – such as Sci Qual International will be accredited by a 3rd party (in Australia and New Zealand this is JAS-ANZ The Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand www.jas-anz.org

Below is a table that shows what areas relates to consultants, auditors and the certification body.

 Certification BodyAuditorsConsultants
Conduct pre audit and help you complete a Gap Analysis Tick Gap AnalysisTick on Consultants Gap Analysis
Award CertificatesCertification Body Awarding Tick  
Complete external certification Audits External Certification Audits Tick 
Prepare you for certification  Tick for Preparing for Certification
Advise and give guidance on how to gain certification  Consultants Tick
Audit systems e.g. Quality Management Systems Audit and Systems Tick 
Issue CertificatesIssue certificates tick  
Coach businesses on certification processes  Certifications Process Tick
Complete recertification-audits on behalf of the Certification Body to confirm continued compliance Recertification Audits Ticks 
The certification process is conducted in two stages.
Stage 1
The auditor will confirm that you have a management system in place with all the necessary documentation required to meet certification.
 
Stage 2
The auditor will verify that you are implementing the systems and processes and that you do what your policies and procedures specify.
Your consultant can prepare you for stage 1 but it is management’s responsibility to ensure that the systems are being implemented.