Terminal Controls

McLeod Governance loves a good discussion about controls – it is our raison d’être (we also love showing off our basic level understanding of French but that is another matter!).

It is within that context (about controls not French!) that we were engrossed in an observation made by Martin Broughton the Chairman of British Airways.

Broughton called unpacking passengers’ laptops for a single search and removing shoes for a single search “redundant”.   In doing so he hit upon another favourite parking lot in the McLeod Governance brain – that of the redundant control.

Consider this letter to the editor of the Financial Times by one Michael Spence of Makati City, Phillipines:


After reading Pilita Clark’s article “Cargo is a weak link in security” I couldn’t help compare the US inspection rate of cargo appears to be somewhere between 50 and 100 percent with the 400 per cent inspection rate I went through on my travels in Philippines and Hong Kong last week.

Why 400 per cent?

First, all my bags pass through the X-ray machine and I pass through a metal detector and pat-down at the entrance to Terminal 1: 100 per cent.

Immediately after immigration, all my bags including my unpacked laptop, my boots and belt that I had to remove pass through a second X-ray machine, and I pass through a second metal detector and a second pat down: 200 percent.

After I arrived at Hong Kong airport, never having left a secure area, yet still my bags with laptop are unpacked for the second time, boots removed for a second time (though its OK to keep my belt on this time) and they pass through a third X-ray machine, while I pass through a third metal detector (though no pat-down this time): 300 per cent.

Immediately prior to boarding the Cathay Pacific flight to Melbourne, on the jetway, I had to give up my hand-carried luggage to be opened and searched: 400 per cent.

I did not leave a secured area since about 5.30am that morning yet when my flight departed for Melbourne, I had been through four searches.

At the same time the packages stored underneath my feet in the cargo hold of this aircraft may nor may not have been searched.

We as auditors are terrified of being the person that took away a control that would have been the control that could have stopped the fraud or the process inefficiency.

We also have this inbuilt suspicion of controls over which we have no ability to determine their effectiveness.

Our challenge therefore lies not in adding controls but making sure that what controls that are necessary are effective in addressing whatever risk it is that we are seeking to control.

Therein is our greatest challenge.

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