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Social Audit of Government Programs

The Social Audit is a tool to measure the effectiveness of any government/non-government program. The process ensures people‟s participation as well as effective engagement. It is implemented through specific methodologies and emphasize on programme rather than financial aspects. It ensures the accountability of government and non-government professionals. Participation of democratic local government effectively takes place in the process. The process promotes transparency in different levels. The general but basic objectives of Social Audit are: to ensure the standard and easy accessibility of local development resources and find out the economic and social gaps; to create awareness among the beneficiaries and development actors; to more active the local development initiatives; to formulate or reform policy based on the interest of common people especially rural people; to end the irregularities of services.

Objective of the Social Audit:

1.To ensure the standard and easy accessibility of local development resources and find out the economic and social gaps

2.To create awareness among beneficiaries and development actors

3.To more activate the local development initiatives

4.To formulate policy based on the interest of rural people

5.To end the irregularities of services                    

General Steps in the Social Audit Social audit process follows consistent steps to accomplish journey in order to bring desired changes. The major 9 steps are as follows:

  1. Identifying the scope of Social Audit.
  2. Develop a clear understanding of the management of program(/s).
  3. Define instruments and obtain information on program.
  4. Develop and conduct training package for building capacity of CSOs (Civil Society Organizations).
  5. Conduct orientation for community based groups/citizen groups or forums.
  6. Collate information.
  7. Dissemination of findings and recommendations.
  8. Public Hearing.
  9. Follow up of public hearing.

Social Audit in India

In India, social audits were first made statutory in a 2005 Rural Employment Act and government also issued the Social Audit Rules in 2011 under the MGNREGA Act.

Important Facts about Social Audit:

  • Social audits are generally supervised by autonomous bodies consisting of government and nongovernment representatives.
  • The 73rd Amendment of the Constitution empowered the Gram Sabhas to conduct Social Audits in addition to other functions.
  • Kindly note that CAG not empowered to conduct Accounting Audit of PRIs in the whole country.
  • No central policy or regulation making accounting audit and social audit mandatory.

The most appropriate institutional level for social audit is the Gram Sabha, which has been given ‘watchdog’ powers and responsibilities by the Panchayati  Raj Acts in most States to supervise and monitor the functioning of panchayat elected representatives and government functionaries, and examine the annual statement of accounts and audit reports. These are implied powers indirectly empowering Gram Sabhas to carry out social audits in addition to other functions. Members of the Gram Sabha and the village panchayat, intermediate panchayat and district panchayat through their representatives, can raise issues of social concern and public interest and demand an explanation.

The Gram Sabha should have the mandate to-

  • Inspect all public documents related to budget allocations, list of beneficiaries, assistance under each scheme, muster rolls, bills, vouchers, accounts, etc., for scrutiny
  • Examine annual statements of accounts and audit reports
  • Discuss the report on the local administration of the preceding year
  • Review local development for the year or any new activity programme
  • Establish accountability of functionaries found guilty of violating established norms/rules
  • Suggest measures for promoting transparency in identifying, planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluating relevant local development programmes
  • Ensure opportunity for rural poor to voice their concerns while participating in social audit meetings.

Steps in Social Audit in Local Bodies:-

  • Clarity of purpose and goa1 of the local elected body.
  • Identify stakeholders with a focus on their specific roles and duties. Social auditing aims to ensure a say for all stakeholders. It is particularly important that marginalized social groups, which are normally excluded, have a say on local development issues and activities and have their views on the actual performance of local elected bodies.
  • Definition of performance indicators which must be understood and accepted by all. Indicator data must be collected by stakeholders on a regular basis.
  • Regular meetings to review and discuss data/information on performance indicators.
  • Follow-up of social audit meeting with the Panchayat body reviewing stakeholders’ actions, activities and viewpoints, making commitments on changes and agreeing on future action as recommended by the stakeholders.
  • Establishment of a group of trusted local people including elderly people, teachers and others who are committed and independent, to be involved in the verification and to judge if the decisions based upon social audit have been implemented.
  • The findings of the social audit should be shared with all local stakeholders. This encourages transparency and accountability. A report of the social audit meeting should be distributed for Gram Panchayat auditing. In addition, key decisions should be written on walls and boards and communicated orally.

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