Smart Auditing Trial extended by Three months

DCLG have today confirmed to all Schemes that the Smart Audit trial is to be extended by three months (see letter from DCLG). So it will now be allowed to be undertaken over a six month period. Elmhurst is pleased with this sensible decision as it allows the process to be more effectively trialled in the real world.

DCLG currently have a consultation out for the Scheme Operating Requirements (SORs) and one of the questions is directly about smart auditing (view here).

As previously noted, the number of audits involved in the smart audit trial are relatively low in comparison to the large number we currently undertake; but the feedback we have received is very positive.The trial will now run until 30th of September, and hopefully we will all see the benefits and the implementation of the new SORs will be a step change for our Industry.

In addition to this trial extension, DCLG have also taken the decision to remove the following rules effective from month four of the trial (see appendix 1):

  • Non default U values (Rule 2)
  • No access to loft (Rule 9)

These rules have been replaced with two new smart rules which includes:

  • Main Building age band is L or K (Rule 11)
  • Floor or wall of any building part has insulations type recorded as Unknown (Rule 12)

It is widely agreed amongst assessors, Schemes and the industry as a whole that the current Quality Assurance (QA) auditing regime is too bureaucratic and often focuses more on the QA process than the actual quality of the EPC itself. The present system is also overly-complex and is slow to react to specific industry concerns. DCLG has listened to these concerns and agrees that this presents an opportunity to take a fresh approach to QA and adopt an alternative process which is more ‘fit for purpose’.

Smart Auditing is reactive and takes a risk-based approach to QA. Using a defined set of ‘smart rules’, Schemes would be able to target areas of concern, including unusual data inputs or lodgement patterns, and select specific EPCs for audit. Examples could include no heating controls to the main boiler or large number of lodged EPCs with no loft access or overwritten U-Values. Where technical errors are identified, Schemes would ensure that appropriate corrective action is completed by the assessor to ensure these errors are not repeated and, over time, help to increase the quality and consistence of EPCs lodged on the central register. Smart Auditing is also expected to highlight malpractice and fraudulent activity more easily, in which case a strict disciplinary procedure would lead to the assessor being ‘struck-off’ if appropriate.

In summary:

  • The overall level of auditing undertaken by any scheme is unlikely to reduce as Smart Auditing is not designed to save Schemes money.
  • However, assessors who produce EPCs to the required standard by following correct RdSAP methodology, Conventions and evidence requirements, may well see a reduction in the number of audit requests they receive.

The vast majority of Elmhurst’s members are passionate about their work and the industry and have often asked for measures to be put in place which will not only improve the overall  quality of EPCs but will also reduce instances of questionable activity in the marketplace. Smart Auditing seeks to achieve both of these goals and, if successful, should reduce the overall QA burden of competent assessors whilst Schemes focus their audit activities on the areas which deserve attention. The other great news is that this is also likely to result in more demand for the services of conscientious DEAs as the less scrupulous assessor are driven out of the industry, a situation which Elmhurst’s members have acknowledged is well overdue!

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