Contracting for an audit

PREA audits are conducted at the request of any federal, state, local, or private confinement facility, or any agency that oversees such a facility. A facility or agency may contact an auditor directly (the PRC maintains a directory of DOJ-certified auditors) or seek the services of an auditor through procurement announcements, advertisements, or other means. Auditors themselves may also solicit work from agencies and facilities, consistent with the underlying ethical requirements stated in the PREA Auditor Handbook.

PREA audits can only be conducted by individuals certified by DOJ and who possess a currently active certification. The process of finding an active, certified auditor and securing an audit agreement is up to the agency and/or facility in need of an audit. Neither DOJ nor the PRC are involved in the contracting, scheduling, or fee schedules associated with PREA audits. 

Contracting party: lead auditors and audit support staff

Each PREA audit must have one lead auditor who is responsible for the conduct of the audit and all work products. A lead auditor can, however, employ other DOJ-certified PREA auditors to function as secondary auditors. The DOJ PREA Management Office strongly encourages this kind of collaboration among certified auditors. The lead auditor may also employ support staff who are not DOJ-certified auditors to assist with auditing tasks. It is important to know that auditors who have been decertified or who are on suspension may not participate in PREA audits, including as a subcontracted agent of a PREA auditor. See 34 U.S.C. §30307(e)(8)(B)(i). Agencies and facilities searching for an auditor, as well as DOJ-certified PREA auditors seeking audit support staff, are strongly encouraged to check the list for the names of auditors who have been decertified and auditors who are suspended, to ensure that the selected auditor and any support staff employed by the auditor are eligible to conduct a PREA audit.

Contracting party: agencies and facilities

Agencies and facilities should be aware that auditors have minimum requirements for the proper conduct of an audit (including, for example, compliance with the audit methodology requirements in the PREA Standards and PREA Auditor Handbook, and allowing for an adequate amount of time spent on site), and no agreement for auditing services should include provisions that conflict with these minimum requirements. In addition, DOJ requires, at minimum, that audit contracts: are transparent; describe the roles and responsibilities of all third parties and support staff; and allow for corrective action planning and implementation. 

Facilities or agencies may wish to engage in reciprocal auditing or circular auditing. Reciprocal auditing occurs when auditors employed by two different agencies or facilities audit each other’s agency or facility. Circular auditing occurs when a consortium of three or more states or local jurisdictions agree to perform no-cost audits within the consortium.

Reciprocal auditing is only permitted if the audits are conducted 12 months or more apart (see full FAQ). Similarly, circular audits are permissible so long as no impermissible reciprocal audits occur. Agreements for these arrangements usually result from negotiations among the agencies involved; however, agencies in reciprocal or circular auditing arrangements should know that DOJ requires that the lead auditor must be a party to the contract or other agreement that underlies the audit.

Contracting party: third-party entities

Auditors may work as independent contractors or conduct audits through a third-party entity (e.g., their current employer, an accreditation body, or a consulting firm).

Auditors who conduct audits through a third-party entity (e.g., for an accreditation body or consulting firm), whether as an employee or a contractor, must exercise independence and integrity when making their determinations regarding compliance with the PREA Standards. Each certified auditor, regardless of whether he or she works independently or through a third-party entity, is personally accountable for complying with all of DOJ’s certification requirements and for the accuracy of his or her audit findings.

Employees of correctional agencies can be certified by DOJ to conduct PREA audits. However, an auditor may not conduct an official PREA audit for any agency or facility under the authority of that agency, including a private facility operated by contract, if the auditor is or has been employed by or otherwise received financial compensation from that agency, facility, or contractor within the past 3 years. Employment within the same state or local government does not disqualify the auditor, so long as the auditor is not employed directly by or under the agency that operates the facility being audited (§115.402).

Auditor restrictions on gifts

Agencies and facilities should understand that no DOJ-certified PREA auditor, or any non-certified support staff hired to assist an auditor, may either solicit or accept a gift from any entity or party who has an interest related to the outcome of a particular PREA audit in which that person is participating. DOJ defines a “gift” as anything that has monetary value such as items, food and beverages, or services.