What are the changes to citizen audit for 2015/16?
This year citizen audit changes. No longer are citizen audit rights covered by part II of the Audit Commission Act 1998 and the underlying regulations as this is no longer in force.
For this year (2015/16 financial year) such rights are covered by part 5 of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014.
The main section of relevance to citizen audit to compare are section 15 of the Audit Commission Act 1998 (as amended by s.160 of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007) and section 26 of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014.
Previously during citizen audit, public bodies could redact information about the names of their own staff, but if it was information about anyone else they had to get their auditor’s approval.
Now, public bodies can redact parts of documents or whole documents on grounds of commercial confidentiality (although a public interest test has to be carried out) and information about the names of their own staff. They are also allowed to redact information that is the name of other individuals but not if it’s the name of a sole trader.
Previously the auditor had to consider all objections (as long as a copy was sent to the public body) made by local government electors for a declaration that an item of account is unlawful, recovery of an amount not accounted, a public interest report or an immediate report.
Now, an objection can only be about a matter that the auditor could write a public interest report about or declare that an item of account is unlawful but the auditor can decide not to consider the objection if:
(a) the auditor thinks it is frivolous or vexatious, or
(b) the cost to the auditor investigating is disproportionate to the sums involved or
(c) it repeats an objection already made and considered by the auditor whether in that financial year or a previous financial year.
However the auditor won’t be able to decide not to consider an objection if it is "an objection which the auditor thinks might disclose serious concerns about how the relevant authority is managed or led".
Even if the auditor rejects an objection for one or more of the reasons above the auditor can still make a recommendation to the public body.
Previously the Audit and Account Regulations 2011 required the inspection period was 20 working days regulation 9 and also that an advertisement was published (as well as a notice on its website) 14 days before this inspection period started regulation 10.
Under the new regime, this changes. There will be a longer inspection period of thirty working days, but this period will now also be the time during which objections and questions to the auditor must be made.
Regulation 14(3) of the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015 does state, "During the period for the exercise of public rights a relevant authority must make the documents referred to in section 26(1) of the Act available for inspection on reasonable notice at all reasonable times."
The National Audit Office have issued a new guide to this. Whereas last year it left the definition of the term "reasonable" wide open to interpretation, which meant Wirral Council could decide it was not "reasonable" to allow any inspection of any expenses claimed by councillors, now the guide is more explicit about the definition of unreasonable and states,
"A council acts ‘unreasonably’ when its actions are so wholly unreasonable that no reasonable person could have made that decision."
So in summary the changes are an added category of "commercial confidentiality" brought about by  Eu LR 172,  UKHRR 1317,  EWCA Civ 1214,  PTSR 185, the inspection period is now thirty working days (which now includes the period to ask questions or make objections to the auditor), for category 1 (larger public authorities) this has to include the first ten working days in July and for category 2 (smaller public authorities) this has to include the first ten working days in June and there seems to be no longer any requirement for a notice about this public inspection period in the newspaper but there still is a need for the public authority to publish a notice on their website.
If you click on any of the buttons below, you’ll be doing me a favour by sharing this article with other people.
6 thoughts on “What are the changes to citizen audit for 2015/16?”
In light of these changes John, a pertinent question for many tax payers would be:
Is it still possible for the council to pay a senior person £ManyThousands in mysterious circumstances, cover it all up, get its mates – the alleged ‘independent’ auditors – to sign it off, then spend a similar or EVEN GREATER amount over several years fending off and fobbing off determined members of the public in their valiant, good faith attempts to unravel the mysteries, discover the true amount of the payment and the date the mysterious payment was made?
Another relevant question would be:
Is it still possible for the same council during times of professed austerity to commission a very costly southern-based barrister, make multiple court submissions and several costly appearances – all completely and utterly disingenously – as a means of pretending to protect the interests of former employees whom you secretly despise, whilst attempting to “smoke out” the same engaged members of the public, whom you also publicly ‘want to be engaged’ but secretly detest because a. they’re constantly getting under your skin and b. threatening to expose you, and whom you yourself are wrongly misrepresenting to a judge as ‘disingenuous’, and whom you wrongly believe (because you are as thick as a post and as crooked and on the take as the day is long) to be the creative minds behind the most popular and entertaining blog upon this borough of Wirral?
According to Alexa, this blog is the more popular blog compared to Wirral Leaks.
I think I’ve made this point before, although the First Tier Tribunal (Information Rights) holds its hearings in a court building, it’s a tribunal not a court.
So for example, unlike a court case under the Civil Procedure Rules where a third party for a fee can receive copies of documents filed with the court, there isn’t an equivalent right of access for third parties for information submitted to a tribunal.
There are plenty of areas of expenditure that Wirral Council spends money on (apart from departing employees) that the general public would be surprised at the amounts spent and what it’s spent on.
Cheers John. I said ‘popular and entertaining’.
Whilst we all appreciate your sterling efforts and the amount of time you spend in trying to hold these people to account….
… footage of evasive councillors and senior officers taking enormous pleasure in showing the public what prize sellouts, bystanders and crooks they are is the polar opposite to ‘entertaining’.
http://www.alexa.com currently has the wirralinittogether.wordpress.com blog as 1 million places more ‘popular’ than johnbrace.com. Although it could be the residual effect of getting 10,000 visitors in one day last month and appearing briefly in Google’s global list of 100 top blogs.
Alexa ranks the most popular website as #1 in their rankings, the second most popular #2.
As the Alexa rank is averaged over the last 3 month period, any brief change upward in traffic would improve it but not by much.
Anyway the current Alexa rank for the two websites is:
#5,285,400 for johnbrace.com (up 5,058,785 compared to the previous 3 month period)
#10,947,561 for wirralleaks.wordpress.com (down 2,871,524 compared to the previous 3 month period)
Think of the Aesop fable of the tortoise and the hare. Although the hare might run a website and get a spike of visitors in one day, the tortoise just plodded along and won the race.
It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d most certainly donate to this superb blog!
I suppose for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.
I look forward to brand new updates and will talk about
this website with my Facebook group. Chat soon!
Thanks for your kind words about the blog. I’ll look into your suggestion of a donate button.
Comments are closed.