advertisementornoticethattellsyoutheaccountingrecordsareavailabletoinspectwillalsogivethe periodfortheexerciseofpublicrightsduringwhichyoumayasktheauditorquestions,whichhere meansformallyaskingquestionsundertheAct.Youcanasksomeonetorepresentyouwhenasking the external auditor questions.Beforeyouasktheexternalauditoranyquestions,inspecttheaccountingrecordsfully,soyouknow whattheycontain.Pleaserememberthatyoucannotformallyaskquestions,undertheAct,afterthe endoftheperiodfortheexerciseofpublicrights.Youmayaskyoursmallerauthorityotherquestions about their accounts for any year, at any time. But these are not questions under the Act.Youcanasktheexternalauditorquestionsaboutanitemintheaccountingrecordsforthefinancial yearbeingaudited.However,yourrighttoasktheexternalauditorquestionsislimited.Theexternal auditorcanonlyanswer‘what’questions,not‘why’questions.Theexternalauditorcannotanswer questionsaboutpolicies,finances,proceduresoranythingelseunlessitisdirectlyrelevanttoanitem intheaccountingrecords.Rememberthatyourquestionsmustalwaysbeaboutfacts,notopinions.To avoid misunderstanding, we recommend that you always put your questions in writing.The right to make objections at auditYou have inspected the accounting records and asked your questions of the smaller authority. Now you maywishtoobjecttotheaccountsonthebasisthataniteminthemisinyourviewunlawfulorthere aremattersofwiderconcernarisingfromthesmallerauthority’sfinances.Alocalgovernmentelector canasktheexternalauditortoapplytotheHighCourtforadeclarationthatanitemofaccountis unlawful,ortoissueareportonmatterswhichareinthepublicinterest.Youmusttelltheexternal auditorwhichspecificitemintheaccountsyouobjecttoandwhyyouthinktheitemisunlawful,orwhy youthinkthatapublicinterestreportshouldbemadeaboutit.Youmustprovidetheexternalauditor withtheevidenceyouhavetosupportyourobjection.Disagreeingwithincomeorspendingdoesnot makeitunlawful.Toobjecttotheaccountsyoumustwritetotheexternalauditorstatingyouwantto makeanobjection,includingtheinformationandevidencebelowandyoumustsendacopytothe smaller authority. The notice must include:confirmation that you are an elector in the smaller authority’s area;why you are objecting to the accounts and the facts on which you rely;details of any item in the accounts that you think is unlawful; anddetails of any matter about which you think the external auditor should make a public interest report.Other than it must be in writing, there is no set format for objecting. You can only ask the external auditor to act within the powers available under the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014.A final wordYoumaynotusethis‘righttoobject’tomakeapersonalcomplaintorclaimagainstyoursmallerauthority. You should take such complaints to your local Citizens’ Advice Bureau, local Law Centre or to your solicitor. Smaller authorities, and so local taxpayers, meet the costs of dealing with questions and objections. In deciding whether to take your objection forward, one of a series of factors the auditor must take into account is the cost that will be involved, they will only continue with the objection if it is in the public interest to do so. They may also decide not to consider an objection if they think that it is frivolous or vexatious, or if it repeats an objection already considered. If you appeal to the courts against an auditor’s decision not to apply to the courts for a declaration that an item of account is unlawful, you will have to pay for the action yourself.