Audit Initiation Process and Rules

PREA audits may be 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 by using the searchable auditor database, or seek the services of an auditor through procurement announcements, advertisements, or other means. Auditors may also solicit work from agencies and facilities.

All DOJ-certified PREA auditors are required to comply with the conditions of the Auditor Certification Agreement when contracting for and conducting an audit. Specifically, the PREA Standards and PREA Auditor Handbook establish minimum guidelines for conducting high quality, reliable, objective, and comprehensive audits. These guidelines prohibit personal and financial conflicts of interest, require auditors to adhere to an auditor code of conduct, impose conditions on audit contracts and compensation (e.g., transparency, compliance with the PREA Standards and DOJ auditor certification requirements, restrictions on gifts); and establish a detailed PREA audit methodology that auditors are to follow. 

Once an agency or facility has identified and contracted with a PREA auditor, either directly or in coordination with a third party entity (e.g., the auditor’s current employer or a consulting firm), the following steps must be taken to initiate the audit and receive approval from the PREA Management Office. It is important to note that, pursuant to this FAQ issued by the DOJ PREA Working Group, auditors are required to be a party to the contract or agreement with the facility and/or agency to be audited.

Submission of an Audit Initiation Form. The Audit Initiation Form is used to initiate all audits. This form collects basic information from a PREA auditor about scheduled audits, including the expected dates for the onsite portion of the audit, the location of the audit, the facility and/or agency to be audited, and the auditing arrangement and compensation structure. All auditors must complete and submit, or confirm, the Audit Initiation Form for each audit they conduct as lead auditor. 

The auditor must submit or confirm the Audit Initiation Form at least 30 days prior to the first day of the auditor’s onsite visit to the facility.

As part of the audit assignment system, auditors are required to submit a copy of the audit contract with the audited agency and confirm that they are party to the contract or agreement with the audited facility and/or agency to be audited. Audit contracts will be reviewed during the approval process of the Audit Initiation Form to determine whether the minimum conditions, outlined below, are met. If an auditor is unable to meet one or more of the conditions and/or fails to fully and accurately complete or confirm the Audit Initiation Form, the auditor will not be approved to proceed with the audit. All auditing agreements must, at a minimum:

  1. Be signed by all relevant parties, including the audited agency, lead auditor, and third-party entity (e.g., the auditor’s current employer, an accreditation body, or a consulting firm), if applicable.
  2. Include the following information:
    • The name of the lead auditor.
    • The facility(ies) to be audited by the auditor.
    • Anticipated dates for the onsite phase of the audit(s).
    • With the exception of audits conducted as part of a circular auditing arrangement (i.e., audit consortium), fees, expenses, and other forms of compensation paid to the auditor for completing the agreed upon audit(s).

This condition applies whether the auditor is being compensated directly by the audited facility and/or agency or through a third-party entity (e.g., the auditor’s current employer, an accreditation body, or a consulting firm). Some facilities and/or agencies may contract with a third-party entity that assigns an auditor after the contract is executed. In such instances, prior to the submission or confirmation of the Audit Initiation Form, the auditor must ensure that the contract between the facility and/or agency and the third-party entity is amended or supplemented to include the lead auditor as one of the parties to the contract. When applying this requirement, the term “contract” is defined according to DOJ’s broad interpretation to include any memorandum of understanding or intergovernmental or interagency agreement. 

For a downloadable checklist that details the contract elements required by the Audit Assignment System, click here

Additionally, the auditor must sign a confirmation attesting to the following conditions for the relevant audit: 

  • The auditor does not have any conflict of interest (as defined in the PREA Standards and the PREA Auditor Handbook).
  • The auditor agrees to abide by the requirements of the Auditor Certification Agreement.
  • The auditor is a party to the contract or agreement with the facility and/or agency to be audited (as detailed in the PREA Auditor Handbook).

Audit Initiation Form Approval. If all the above conditions are met and the auditor fully and accurately completes or confirms the Audit Initiation Form 30 days prior to the first day of the auditor’s onsite visit to the facility, the auditor will be approved to proceed with the audit and will receive an email notification of such. Auditors are not to proceed with an audit unless an approval email has been issued by the PREA Management Office granting the auditor permission to conduct the audit. This approval applies only to the auditor who is named in the Audit Initiation Form as lead auditor. If the lead auditor approved to conduct the audit is unable to complete the audit, another auditor may not proceed as lead auditor without first submitting or confirming an Audit Initiation Form.   

If an auditor is unable to meet one or more of the conditions and/or fails to fully and accurately complete or confirm the Audit Initiation Form, the auditor will not be approved to proceed with the audit. If an auditor conducts an audit without first receiving approval, he or she will be subject to disciplinary action by the PREA Management Office, up to and including suspension or decertification. Such disciplinary action against the auditor will not impact the validity of a completed audit for which the auditor failed to obtain prior approval. 

If an auditor fails to submit or confirm the Audit Initiation Form at least 30 days prior to the first day of the onsite portion of the audit, he or she will be prompted to provide an explanation for the late submission. Auditors who consistently fail to submit or confirm the Audit Initiation Form by the deadline may be subject to disciplinary action by the PREA Management Office.