Ironclad Journal icon IRONCLAD JOURNAL

Purchasing Process Audit and Problem-Solving Tips

abstract illustration of purchasing process audit

In the world of business, continuous improvement is the key to staying ahead. Have you ever wondered if your purchasing process is operating at its full potential? By taking a closer look through an audit, you can uncover valuable insights that will propel your organization forward. Auditing your purchasing process is not just a routine task; it’s an opportunity to unlock hidden efficiencies, reduce risks, and optimize your operations.

What a Purchasing Process Audit Entails

A purchasing process audit is a systematic examination and evaluation of an organization’s procurement activities, procedures, and controls to assess their effectiveness, efficiency, and compliance with established policies and regulations.

The audit aims to identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement within the process. It involves reviewing documentation, interviewing relevant personnel, and analyzing data related to vendor selection, contract management, purchasing decisions, and financial controls.

The audit findings provide valuable insights into the overall performance of the purchasing process, identify potential risks or inefficiencies, and help your company implement corrective actions to enhance procurement practices and optimize compliance with internal and external requirements.

Who Should Perform the Audit?

The choice of who should perform the internal audit of purchasing processes depends on factors such as the size and complexity of the company, the availability of internal resources with auditing expertise, and the desired level of independence.

  • Internal Staff: Utilize existing staff members who have a good understanding of the organization’s purchasing processes. This could include individuals from the finance or operations departments who have experience and knowledge of procurement activities. They can be assigned the responsibility of conducting the internal audit alongside their regular duties.
  • Internal Audit Department: Some organizations have an internal audit department or team dedicated to conducting independent and objective audits across different functions, including procurement. This department typically consists of internal auditors who are trained in auditing practices, risk assessment, and control evaluation.
  • Procurement or Purchasing Team: In some organizations, the procurement or purchasing team may have individuals with expertise in auditing or compliance. These individuals can be assigned the responsibility of conducting internal audits of your purchasing processes, leveraging their knowledge of the procurement function and its associated risks.
  • Compliance Department: Organizations with a dedicated compliance department may have professionals who possess the skills and knowledge necessary to audit your purchasing process. They can assess compliance with policies, procedures, and relevant regulations, ensuring that procurement activities adhere to ethical and legal standards.
  • Cross-Functional Audit Team: Another approach is to establish a cross-functional audit team that comprises representatives from different departments, including procurement, finance, legal, and internal audit. This team brings diverse perspectives and expertise to the audit process, allowing for a comprehensive evaluation of your purchasing process.
  • External Audit Firm: Some organizations engage external audit firms or consultants to perform independent audits of their processes. These external auditors bring objectivity and specialized expertise, providing an unbiased assessment of the procurement function.

Ideally, the individuals or teams conducting the audit have the necessary knowledge and skills to effectively evaluate the purchasing processes and provide valuable insights and recommendations for improvement. Lacking such resources, even an informal audit can help uncover opportunities for improvement.

It may be beneficial to consult with management, evaluate the specific requirements of the audit, and select the most suitable approach that balances effectiveness, efficiency, and cost considerations.

Purchasing Process Audit Steps

Auditing a purchasing process involves reviewing and assessing the effectiveness, efficiency, and compliance of the procurement activities within an organization. Here are the basic steps to conduct an internal purchasing process audit:

  1. Define Audit Objectives. Clearly define the objectives and scope of the audit. Identify the specific areas and processes within the purchasing function that will be audited. Determine the goals of the audit, such as identifying control weaknesses, assessing compliance with policies and regulations, or identifying opportunities for process improvement.
  2. Develop an Audit Plan. Create a detailed audit plan that outlines the audit methodology, timelines, and resources required. Determine the audit procedures to be followed, including data collection methods, interviews with relevant personnel, and documentation review.
  3. Gather Relevant Information. Collect all relevant documentation related to the purchasing process, such as policies, procedures, contracts, purchase orders, invoices, and vendor records. Review and analyze these documents to gain an understanding of the current purchasing practices and identify potential areas of risk or non-compliance.
  4. Assess Internal Controls. Evaluate the effectiveness of internal controls within the purchasing process. This includes reviewing the segregation of duties, authorization procedures, invoice and payment verification processes, contract management practices, and adherence to procurement policies and procedures. Identify any control weaknesses or gaps that may exist.
  5. Review Compliance. Assess compliance with applicable laws, regulations, and organizational policies. Ensure that purchasing activities adhere to legal requirements, ethical standards, and internal policies. Evaluate whether proper procurement procedures are followed, competitive bidding processes are conducted when necessary, and conflicts of interest are appropriately addressed.
  6. Analyze Vendor Management. Review vendor selection, evaluation, and management processes. Evaluate the adequacy of vendor qualification criteria, contract management practices, and performance monitoring mechanisms. Assess whether vendors are selected based on objective criteria, contracts are appropriately negotiated, and vendor performance is regularly reviewed.
  7. Identify Risks and Opportunities. Identify and assess risks associated with the purchasing process. Determine potential risks such as fraud, unauthorized purchases, non-compliance, or inefficient processes. Identify opportunities for process improvement, cost savings, or enhanced vendor relationships.
  8. Report Findings and Recommendations. Prepare a comprehensive audit report that summarizes the findings of the audit. Clearly communicate any control weaknesses, non-compliance issues, or areas of improvement. Provide actionable recommendations to address the identified issues and enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the purchasing process.
  9. Follow Up and Monitor. Monitor the implementation of audit recommendations and track progress over time. Conduct follow-up audits to assess the effectiveness of corrective actions taken and verify compliance with recommended changes. Continuously monitor the purchasing process to ensure ongoing compliance and improvement.
  10. Communicate Results. Share the audit findings, recommendations, and any resulting changes with relevant stakeholders, including management, procurement personnel, and other departments affected by the purchasing process. Promote transparency and ensure awareness of the audit results to drive accountability and continuous improvement.

Remember that conducting a purchasing process audit requires some knowledge of procurement principles and regulations. Consider engaging internal (or external) auditors who will do a thorough and unbiased evaluation of the purchasing process.

Purchasing Process Problems and How to Solve Them

During a purchasing process audit, several common findings may emerge that shed light on areas of improvement and potential risks. Here are some examples of audit findings that companies often encounter, along with suggestions for improvement:

Lack of Documentation

Auditors may discover a lack of proper documentation in the purchasing process, such as missing purchase orders, incomplete vendor records, or inadequate contract documentation. This finding highlights the need to establish and maintain robust record-keeping practices to ensure transparency and accountability.


  • Establish clear documentation requirements and provide training to procurement personnel on proper record-keeping practices.
  • Implement a centralized electronic system or procurement software to streamline document management and ensure easy access to essential records.
  • Develop standardized templates and forms for purchase orders, vendor records, and contract documentation to maintain consistency and completeness.

Weak Internal Controls

The audit may reveal weaknesses in internal controls, such as inadequate segregation of duties, inconsistent authorization processes, or lack of verification procedures for invoices and payments. These findings emphasize the importance of strengthening internal controls to prevent fraud, errors, and unauthorized purchases.


  • Strengthen segregation of duties by clearly defining roles and responsibilities within the purchasing process.
  • Implement authorization controls, such as defined approval workflows and limits for various purchasing activities.
  • Conduct regular reviews and reconciliations of invoices, purchase agreements, and payments to detect errors or discrepancies.
  • Introduce periodic internal audits or self-assessment processes to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of internal controls.

Non-Compliance with Policies and Regulations

Auditors may identify instances where the purchasing process deviates from established policies, procedures, or regulatory requirements. This finding highlights the need to improve compliance and ensure adherence to applicable laws, ethical standards, and organizational guidelines.


  • Review and update procurement policies and procedures to align with relevant laws, regulations, and industry best practices.
  • Provide comprehensive training and awareness programs to ensure that procurement personnel understand and comply with the established policies.
  • Implement robust monitoring and oversight mechanisms to detect and address any instances of non-compliance.
  • Foster a culture of ethical conduct and integrity throughout the procurement function.

Inefficient Supplier Management

The audit may uncover inefficiencies in supplier management, such as poor vendor selection practices, inadequate performance monitoring, or missed opportunities for cost savings through strategic sourcing. These findings emphasize the need to enhance supplier relationship management practices to drive better value and mitigate supply chain risks.


  • Develop a structured supplier qualification and selection process based on defined criteria, such as quality, price, reliability, and sustainability.
  • Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to evaluate supplier performance and regularly assess their adherence to contractual obligations.
  • Implement contract management systems or software to ensure timely renewals, amendments, and proper oversight of supplier contracts.
  • Foster open communication and collaboration with suppliers to drive continuous improvement and identify cost-saving opportunities.

Inadequate Contract Management

Auditors may identify issues in contract management, such as expired contracts, inconsistent terms and conditions, or missed opportunities for contract renegotiation. This finding underscores the importance of robust contract management processes to ensure favorable terms, protect the organization’s interests, and optimize vendor relationships.


  • Implement a centralized contract repository or contract management system to facilitate easy access, tracking, and renewal management.
  • Conduct periodic contract reviews to ensure compliance with terms and conditions and identify opportunities for renegotiation or cost optimization.
  • Assign contract owners or managers to oversee contract administration and monitor key milestones, deliverables, and obligations.
  • Establish robust processes for contract approval, amendment, and termination to ensure compliance and mitigate risks.

Limited Competitive Bidding

The audit may reveal instances where competitive bidding processes aren’t adequately followed, resulting in missed opportunities for cost savings and supplier diversification. This finding emphasizes the need to promote fair competition and explore multiple vendor options to secure the best value for the organization.


  • Develop clear guidelines and thresholds for when competitive bidding processes should be followed.
  • Implement an automated request for proposal (RFP) or request for quotation (RFQ) system to streamline the bidding process.
  • Encourage supplier diversification by actively seeking new vendor relationships and periodically reviewing existing supplier agreements.
  • Conduct market research and benchmarking to ensure competitiveness and secure favorable pricing and terms.

Poor Inventory Management

Auditors may find discrepancies or inefficiencies in inventory management related to purchasing activities, such as stockouts, excess inventory, or inadequate controls over inventory replenishment. This finding highlights the need to improve inventory management practices, forecasting, and demand planning to optimize working capital and minimize stock-related risks.


  • Implement inventory management systems or software to track inventory levels, demand patterns, and reorder points.
  • Conduct regular inventory audits to identify and address stock discrepancies, obsolete items, and overstock situations.
  • Improve demand forecasting and planning processes to optimize inventory levels and minimize stockouts.
  • Establish effective communication channels between procurement and inventory management teams to ensure alignment and timely replenishment.

Non-compliance with Sustainability or Social Responsibility Standards

The audit may uncover non-compliance with sustainability or social responsibility standards in the purchasing process, such as sourcing from unethical suppliers or neglecting environmental considerations. This finding emphasizes the need to align procurement practices with sustainable and ethical guidelines to fulfill corporate social responsibility commitments (if applicable).


  • Develop and communicate clear guidelines and criteria for sustainable and socially responsible procurement practices.
  • Implement supplier qualification processes that include assessments of their sustainability and ethical practices.
  • Collaborate with suppliers to improve sustainability performance, such as reducing carbon footprint or promoting fair labor practices.
  • Regularly review and update supplier contracts to include sustainability requirements and compliance monitoring.

Addressing the problems identified during a purchasing process audit requires a proactive approach to implement corrective actions. Of course, the specific audit findings will vary depending on the organization, industry, and specific audit objectives. Solutions should be tailored to the specific findings and needs of your organization. It’s important to involve relevant stakeholders, such as procurement personnel, legal advisors, and senior management, to ensure effective implementation and continuous improvement of the process.

Test Your Own Contract Processes

Let the Audit Be Your Guide

Embrace the power of audit to gain a comprehensive understanding of your procurement practices, identify areas for improvement, and enhance compliance with industry standards. With a clear picture of your purchasing process, you can make informed decisions, build stronger supplier relationships, and drive cost savings. Let the audit be your guide on the path to success, as you harness its transformative capabilities to unlock the true value of your purchasing process.

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