The Partnership for Supply Chain Management (PFSCM) is currently undertaking another round of supplier prequalification audits and re-audits of pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical health product distributors and wholesalers in sub-Saharan Africa.
The aim of prequalification is to expand PFSCM’s pool of local suppliers for risk mitigation, and to develop sources of supply closer to demand to reduce supply chain costs, and minimize the environmental impact associated with global logistics.
Since the start of PFSCM’s supplier prequalification program, the organization has audited over 100 suppliers. The majority of PFSCM’s 39 current approved suppliers are based in Africa.
Prequalification audits for new suppliers are continuously performed as needed, and re-audits for those already approved are done every three years to ensure compliance with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Model Quality Assurance System for Procurement Agencies and WHO Good Storage and Distribution Practices guidelines.
In 2019 and early 2020, PFSCM conducted on-site audits in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria and South Africa, and 11 audits are planned to take place remotely in the fourth quarter of 2020, with several more scheduled for early 2021.
PFSCM Product Quality Assurance Manager Manusika Rai, says COVID-19 presented many challenges this year, but it also offered PFSCM the opportunity to reconsider and introduce changes into its ways of working including reassessing its supplier prequalification audit program.
“We have adopted remote supplier audits as an alternative to on-site audits to continue the prequalification of both existing and new suppliers. This alternative process, which reduces travel cost and time spent, allows more of our staff with various expertise to participate in audits thereby expanding our pool of experienced auditors.”
Further, Rai explains that remote audits are done in accordance with ISO 19011:2018 Guidelines for Auditing Management Systems, which already makes provision for remote auditing.
Meanwhile, Rai adds that as an ISO 9001:2015 certified organization, risk management is an important component and driver of PFSCM’s Quality Management System, Product Quality Assurance Policy, and supplier prequalification program.
“Remote auditing has forced us to not only apply and integrate risk-based thinking across many levels and processes, but also think outside the box in many other ways than the traditional audit approach. Use of technologies like video conferencing and data transfer or file sharing platforms have facilitated online engagement with our suppliers during these remote audits,” explains Rai.
She does however note that internet bandwidth issues and intermittent internet connectivity in some of the countries, have been a barrier to the seamless execution of the audits. “Connectivity and time zone differences are important considerations for audit planning if the auditee is located in another country.”
Rai concludes that “overall PFSCM embraces its new way of working, and will continue its remote supplier prequalification, learning and adapting as we progress.”