ASQA’s purpose is to ensure confidence in the integrity of our VET sector. We promote and support a provider culture of sustained compliance, self-assurance and continuous improvement, minimising the need for enforcement.
Our regulatory approach is proportionate and risk-based, focusing on sector wide and provider risks. We use education, engagement, compliance and enforcement activities, as well as partnerships with other industry and government entities, to support our regulatory objectives.
As part of ASQA’s reform agenda, we have made improvements to our compliance audit practice to better align with the principles of best practice regulation. Stage One of these changes has been implemented this year and we will continue to build on these improvements in Stage Two over the course of 2021.
Our audit practice improvements to-date include:
- facilitating earlier requests for information
- changes to how we deal with minor deficiencies
- creating better opportunities for providers to respond to issues and concerns during the audit process prior to ASQA making any findings of non-compliance
- changes to our audit reports so that they are easier to understand and make clearer links between the evidence collected and findings of non-compliance.
Requests for information
Requesting information early in the audit process allows us to better scope the audit, identify any further information to be followed up, and highlight any issues that might need to be explored through interviews.
This means we are not assessing provider performance narrowly, that we are not determining compliance on documentary evidence alone, and that we are following lines of enquiry through interviews and observations to assess provider practice.
Requesting information early in the audit process also ensures that providers have sufficient time to gather the information needed, and that the audit is conducted in an efficient and effective manner with minimal impost on the provider’s operations.
Where auditors identify deficiencies, they consider the nature, extent, impact, prevalence, oversight and likelihood of recurrence of the problem to assess the significance that deficiency.
Auditors discuss minor deficiencies with providers as they arise during the audit or at the closing meeting and will seek agreement to remedy. Providers aren’t required to submit a response or any evidence in relation to minor deficiencies.
A deficiency may be minor where it collectively:
- has a negligible impact on students
- does not impact the overall intent or outcome required of the standard
- can be readily fixed
- is not systemic
- is administrative in nature
- could have occurred despite controls being in place (e.g. is likely inadvertent, an accident or unintended).
Minor deficiencies will be recorded in the audit report, but it will be clear that the issues were sufficiently minor that they did not result in a finding of non-compliance against the relevant regulatory requirement.
Responding during audit
During audit, and at the closing meeting, providers are informed of any areas of concern to discuss the issues. This creates better opportunities for providers to respond to issues, and for ASQA to follow lines of enquiry prior to making any findings of non-compliance.
We have made some adjustments to our audit reports so that they’re easier to read and understand.
We have moved away from standardised wording to clearly communicate and describe to providers any non-compliance that has been identified through the audit process. .
Where non-compliance is recorded, the audit report clearly describes the reason for the finding, with reference to the relevant evidence, so providers can understand where they are falling short and where they need to improve their performance.
In 2021, ASQA will separate our existing audit function into two teams: quality assessment and compliance. Quality assessment teams will conduct regulatory activities to assess provider performance. Where non-compliance is identified, a compliance team will case manage providers’ return to compliance through an undertaking to remedy. If compliance cannot be achieved after remediation, the compliance team decide on the appropriate regulatory response.
We will engage with you on both the revised audit methodology and undertakings to remedy prior to their implementation.
ASQA’s risk-based approach recognises that while we cannot mitigate every risk, we can direct our focus to identify and treat the most significant risks facing the Australian VET and international education sectors.
To understand risks to the performance of the sector, we draw on data and intelligence from many sources. We determine the most significant systemic and provider risks, and use this information to inform our compliance monitoring and enforcement priorities.
We continue to actively monitor high-risk providers, and communicate with the sector about our high‑level findings, including where this can assist providers to improve their performance and/or assist other government agencies and funding bodies to identify systemic risk.