5 Good Reasons to Audit Staff Rules

By Frédéric Dopagne, Saskia Lemeire and Bert Theeuwes

Many international organizations conduct an audit of their staff rules at set intervals while others conduct audits at the occasion of certain incidents such as an internal reorganization or a condemnation by its appeal board or administrative tribunal. An audit of the staff rules can reveal a lot about the organization and can be conducted for various reasons: sometimes audits have general and all-encompassing scope, sometimes they are targeted and focus on aspects such as compliance, efficiency or functionality. 


Depending on the objective of the audit, here are five good reasons to audit staff rules:

1. Obtain objective insight

While every sizeable company in the world is expected or legally required to have an independent auditor or audit team, most international organizations do not. Without an internal audit, changes or problems will only be spotted if things go wrong and after the damage is done. This will always have negative impact, either financially or in terms of unhappy staff members or directors/managers. In all cases, the organization loses.   

Since it is not possible to audit your own work without having a conflict of interest, an organization’s management cannot rely on internal reports to get an objective view on its internal regulatory framework. In these cases, an organization will require an independent and unbiased view from an external expert to get independent and impartial feedback.

2. Check your rules and policies for internal coherence

Rules and policies can remain unchallenged for long periods of time by the staff in your organization, but lack coherence and internal logic. This will ultimately lead to unpredictability and inconsistent interpretations, especially for newly hired staff members, relevant third parties or, ultimately, the judges requested to decide on interpretation issues. 

There are simple techniques to verify staff rules for internal logic and coherence. A thorough screening of the staff rules allows for the organization (instead of a tribunal) to decide on the proper interpretation and creates a transparent and open regulatory environment hereby avoiding issues rather than solving them. 

3. Verify whether staff rules are clearly and properly drafted 

By objectively reviewing the organization’s policies and procedures, the organization can receive assurance that it is acting in compliance with its policies and procedures, and that these policies and procedures are still adequate to address the objectives for which they were created. 

4. Ensure compliance with conventions, regulations and principles of international civil service law

Every organization has its own set of conventions creating it and governing its legal environment and, at the same time, an organization is embedded in an ever changing legal environment where certain tendencies and principles will influence its functioning whether or not the organization explicitly recognized these principles or not. As such, principles such as fraud avoidance, harassment prevention and privacy protection will impact the regulatory framework and expectations of staff and management. By regularly performing an audit, you can update your staff rules to modern standards and expectations, ensure compliance with the constituent documents, the regulatory framework and the principles of international civil service law which will apply regardless whether the staff rules explicitly recognize or refer to them. 

5. Assess review and remedy mechanisms

An audit is beneficial because it improves the control environment of the organization by assessing efficiency and operational effectiveness. Are your controls fulfilling their purpose? 

Is control known and possible at all levels? Are there barriers to request control or independent interpretation of the rules? Is there a real and actual right of access to justice, the right to standing before a court or tribunal, the right to a competent, independent and impartial court or tribunal, the right to be heard in a fair and public trial with due process and the right to a reasoned and public decision? The right to appeal, while not being included explicitly in an international convention, is now considered to be a fundamental right under customary international human rights law. The principle of ensuring equality of arms in an adversarial proceeding has been recognized universally, especially as an element of the broader concept of fair trial. 

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