As competition in the global economy grows, management systems are becoming increasingly complex and diverse. Management system audits, applied for the examination of system effectiveness and compliance with planned arrangements, seem to be following the same path. This paper addresses the fundamental models, concepts, principles and practices of management system auditing, with the objective of improving the consistency and effectiveness of audits across quality, environmental, financial, safety, maintenance and other auditing disciplines. The concept of a generic audit is introduced on the basis of the systems approach. Discipline‐specific audit definitions are analyzed, and a generic audit definition is depicted. Quality, environmental and accounting audit principles are compared, and a set of basic features of a generic audit is illustrated and discussed. Common audit practices are subsequently illustrated, followed by an outline of the structure and content of a generic audit guideline, together with the proposed two‐prong approach to the development of the generic audit.
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