New national auditor system begins roll-out


By Warren Robertson

The responsibility for the auditing of PIRB certificates of compliance was recently passed to a team at IOPSA to handle the increasing number of submitted certificates and eliminate any conflicts of interest that may arise when PIRB is both the sole provider and auditor of the process.

Brendan Reynolds, executive director of IOPSA, explains that in addition to the ability to eliminate the PIRB as ‘judge, jury, and executioner’, the move has meant that the service offered will ultimately become more streamlined, efficient, and professional.

“We have put a huge amount of work into this, and it has been a long time coming,” says Reynolds, adding that the PIRB was happy to handle the process while the volumes were quite small.

“The number of certificates sold has been ticking up quite dramatically, however, and now we are currently looking at needing to audit 5% of roughly 8 000 sold certificates a month,” he says.

This steady increase in submission of certificates clearly meant that the PIRB system needed a dramatic overhaul if it was going to cope with the increasing demand for auditors’ time, and that the audits themselves would need to be done in an unbiased, fair, and professional manner.

With that in mind, IOPSA has been appointed by the PIRB to set up a new system, in which auditors will be sourced and trained before being deployed to a region under a technical manager, who will act to use auditors according to their level of training, as well as conduct more complex audits themselves.

Initially, this system will be supported by the PIRB’s current system of auditors to ensure that the large volume of necessary audits is being conducted, but the long-term plan is to train enough independent auditors, hired on a full-time basis by IOPSA, to conduct all the necessary checks without any additional assistance.

“If you ask me if we will be up and running at full capacity within the next two to three months, I am going to tell you that it is not possible,” explains Reynolds.

The plan is to launch the system across the country, to meet both current and future demand. The slow initial speed of the roll-out is principally due to the need to create a course to train independent auditors, and then to ensure that enough people become qualified through that course in each region.

“Some kinds of audits are not hard,” says Reynolds, who envisages the new auditors initially heading only to simple audits with a checklist while they complete their training. “Standard geyser installations for instance — anyone with the right basic education will be able to take the measurements, follow the laws, and explain whether or not a geyser is correctly installed.”

IOPSA is currently advertising and placing recently qualified engineering graduates and plumbers who hope to take up the additional training to work as full-time auditors. “We have no doubt that we are going to learn a few lessons over the next few months. This is all a new experience for everyone involved, but our hope is that the training courses, and the appointment of fully qualified auditors, will roll out to scale with the increasing demand for audits. Within five years, we hope to have a fully operational national system of auditors who are backed by a recognised qualification, and who are managed in each region by their own technical managers,” Reynolds says.

“Within five years, we hope to have a fully operational national system of auditors who are backed by a recognised qualification, and who are managed in each region by their own technical managers.”

At first, the system is going to be overseen by Steve Brown, IOPSA national operations manager, who will also hold the role of technical manager for KwaZulu-Natal. Steve van Zyl, IOPSA national technical manager, will handle Gauteng, while the Western Cape, at the time of writing, will be managed by the yet-to-be-appointed technical manager.

“As time passes, we will need to fill the roles of technical manager in the other regions, as well as train enough auditors to cover those places. It’s a massive job, but in the end, it’s all for the good of the industry,” insists Reynolds.

The money for the training of auditors, as well as for the cost of the audits themselves, is already built into the price of the certificates, which are sold by the PIRB. The PIRB in turn pays IOPSA for each audit conducted and provides the capital to train the new auditors. Reynolds explains that in the long term, the plan is to put the system out to tender for an entirely unconnected organisation to handle, but says that by that time, there will hopefully be a system of qualified auditors that the new company can contract to perform the audits.

“Our role as IOPSA is to grow and develop the industry, so while it makes sense for us to pioneer these systems and get them up and running, it doesn’t make sense for us to continue running them indefinitely. At the end of the day, we must think of what will help and strengthen plumbing in South Africa,” says Reynolds.