Among the hundreds of audits we perform each year, the ones of China (and some other production countries) show a quasi-constant situation. The factory prepares the audit to hide information one way or the other. It could be fake records or the coaching of workers to lie to the auditors.
However, that doesn’t mean the factories are never transparent. We have recently audited one good example of such case. The factory was immediately transparent and provided us with true records for production, working time… But simultaneously, 80% of the workers explained us a working time organization of exactly 60 hours a week (which is a usual limit although it is illegal in China and forget overtime shouldn’t be regular). The factory management clearly explained the auditor they were indeed training the workers as it was a request of some other customers. This way of telling it is especially interesting. The factory thinks they are answering a customer’s request. They don’t consider they are doing anything wrong. During the audit we noticed the deduction for the canteen and the dormitories were not notified on the wages records (as the canteen and dormitories are services and are not statutory in the factory it is normal to request for payment for these services). Once again the management immediately acknowledge the fact by explaining some auditors “don’t like the deductions.” Here again, the factory management was actually trying to “satisfy” and not really to hide as they have been transparent as soon as we ask a question about it. Besides, another factory has recently insisted on showing us proudly at the end of an audit the set of fake records they had done to pass others’ audits. We are clearly not in a dissimulation process, but in what is felt as an answer to a customer expectation.
As a result, we wonder if the dissimulation practices of the factories are the origin or a consequence of the vicious circle “unachievable requirements / imperfect audits / dissimulation / appearing compliant only. “
Fully standardized audits practices preventing the auditors to adapt to each specific situation have a huge impact on that as they ease a lot the dissimulation. More and more factories are telling us that many auditors are not using interviews as evidences anymore as it is not written evidence. Should we try to ease the dissimulation process we wouldn’t do otherwise as it is easy to modify a document but much more difficult (and expensive) to coach workers. The almost systematic dissimulation met in factories could well be only an adaptation of the factories to the market. We should then try to find out who benefit from it.