VPA annex on independent auditing
Independent audits are a compulsory feature of all Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) timber legality assurance systems. Independent audits underpin the credibility of the timber legality assurance system of a VPA partner-country and the VPA as a whole.
Audits provide independent evidence that a timber legality assurance system is working. The auditor's role is not to find evidence of illegality, but to assess whether a timber legality assurance system is functioning properly. The evidence provided by audits reassures governments of partner countries that timber legality assurance systems are effective forest management tools.
The purpose of the VPA annex on independent auditing is to outline the scope and principles of independent audits, and to frame these in the terms of reference for auditors, which specify:
- Required qualifications
- Independence from interests linked to the forest sector
- Relations with stakeholders
- Tasks, methodology and sources of information
- Reporting principles, procedure and schedule
Each annex on independent auditing also describes how a partner country will, in consultation with the EU, recruit and support an auditor, and how parties to the VPA will respond to an auditor's reports.
Independent auditing is part of a country's timber legality assurance system and must be in place before FLEGT licensing can begin. However, the frequency of audits, name of the auditing role and nature of reports vary between countries, as Table 3 shows.