“For the people, of the people, by the people”
Our country being a democratic nation and a Welfare State revolves around people. Government takes any decision keeping the common people in mind. Government formulates many programme/policies for the welfare of the State.
Though planning is perfect with all valid assumptions considering the immediate need of the people, there were few Programs in which ‘WE’, the people, find a huge gap between expected outcome and actual outcome. It is evident that there is some sort of deviation from the proper course of implementation and follow up. So there needs to be a Check!
Social responsibility and accountability are the need of the hour. Governments are facing an ever growing demand to be more accountable and socially responsible and the people are becoming more conscious about their rights to be informed and to influence Government decision making processes.
"Social Audit is a process in which people work with the Government to monitor the planning and implementation of the policies/programme which are intended for the beneficiaries (people)".
It is also defined as an in-depth scrutiny and analysis of the working of any public utility vis-à-vis (in relation to) its social relevance.
The underlying ideas of a Social Audit are directly linked to the concepts of democracy and participation. In Social Audit, it examines the impact of specific Governmental activities on certain sections of the society which are in contact with Government agencies. It is an important tool in the Management of National affairs.
Objectives of Social Audit:
Ø Accurate identification of requirements
ØPrioritization of developmental activities as per requirements
ØProper utilization of funds
ØConformity of the developmental activity with stated goals
Ø Quality of Service
Need for Social Audit
“Is it true ?
- India is a Democracy
- People are Masters
- Government exists to serve the people!
If it is TRUE,
- Social Audit of all Development programmes need be welcome”
Major decisions about these welfare programmes were made by the politicians. People’s money should not be played into the hands of few corrupted politicians hence there is a need for the social audit to check any discrepancies relating to the project/welfare activities.
Social Audit is community driven tool for transparency and accountability. It unearths misappropriations, corruptions and identifies the perpetrators of such deeds and exposes them and makes accountable in the Public forum.
Scope of Audit
Social audit is also conducted on Policies and Laws in addition to the schemes or programmes. The task of auditing is relevant right from the stage when an issue is identified through planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. Audits are done on not just of ‘decisions taken’ or the actions done (or not done) but also of the ‘processes followed’.
Social Audit compared with other audits:
(a) Government Audit or Institutional audit:
Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) who is the head of the Supreme Audit Institution of India, conducts Government Audit and it is also responsible for ensuring an uniform accounting policy and audit in Government sector as a whole.
Government Audit does not significantly involve the affected persons (ultimate beneficiaries). These audits concludes at assessing outputs rather than OUTCOMES and are also not able to assess whether the decision making processes had the inputs and support of all the critical stakeholders (Government Personal, affected peoples and other interested parties).
(b) Public audit:
Public audit do not have those problems which being discussed above since it is audited only by the affected persons/stated beneficiaries. However the findings of discrepancy by this public audit cannot be easily taken to the table of the Government since, as the implementing institutions and Government does not involve intrinsically in the process of audit.
Social audit is a blend of two (Institutional audit and Public audit). It assesses the performance and unpacks decision. ‘Social audit’ targets whether the spent amount for the Social activity has made a difference whereas ‘Financial audit’ target whether the amount spent correctly for the specified activities. So Social Audit complements well with Financial Audit.
Social audit is conducted in addition to Government/Institutional audits in some sample activities which involve distributing of disaggregated benefits at grass root level/activity which involves huge investment like; Public Distribution System (PDS), National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS). The findings of such audit are publicly compared to those of the Government/Institutional audits and the corrective/rectifying measures would be initiated.
When Social Audit conducted?
Social audit can be conducted at any point of time of the Social activity. It might be of the grass root planning stage/implementing stage or after work being done.
It is broken down below taking NREGS (National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme) specifically to give clarity as to what is being done in a Social Audit.
Planning Stage: To ensure that the Gram Panchayat plan is need based covering productive/investments and drawn up in consultation with community serving the poor and the disadvantaged.
Preparation Stage: To ensure that estimates are proper and are in tune with the approved quantum of work.
Implementation Stage: To ensure that wages are paid rightly, properly and to right people
After completion of work: To ensure that quality of work is in tune with quantity and estimated cost.
Benefits of Social Audit:
ØCurb on corruption
ØIncreased effectiveness of a Program / Project
ØA sense of belonging (Personal touch with People, since people participate in the audit)
ØAwareness to Common people their rights and entitlements
ØSocial Accounting and Reporting
ØPromotes integrity and a sense of community among people.
ØGood Local Governance
ØGrievance redressal and follow up of corrective actions
Different stages of Social Audit:
Selection of Audit Committee
Social Audit Public Meeting
Step III Follow up
RTI and Social Audit:
To conduct Social Audit it needs all relevant information and decision making processes that are totally transparent. Section 4(1) (b) of the RTI Acts (Right to Information) lists the information that Public authorities need to make public suo moto. It should publish all relevant facts while formulating important policies or announcing the decisions which affects the public. Thereby RTI Acts helps to conduct audit in a smooth manner.
Control Over Social Audit
ØNo official/ political pressure should be brought on to social audit process
ØAll records pertaining to works that are to be audited must be available with the social audit team before Audit process begin
Ø The role and responsibilities of Government/Administration and the Social audit team should be clearly explained
Ø The purity of the Social audit must be maintained at all circumstances. It should not be politicized.
Ø A Social auditor shall not bring his/her personal or organizational ‘s agenda into the social audit process
Ø All the aspects of the scheme must be closely examined during the social audit process
Ø There should not be any place for discrimination in Social audit process based on caste, race, religion or profession.
Ø A social auditor must be an impartial observer of facts
Lok Pal Bill and Social Audit:
Well, it is possible to relate social audit with newly proposed Jan LokPal Bill. If social audit, implemented with all stringent laws and punitive punishments given for the mishandling (or) by other means of scam, the planning and implementation will be smooth and it ensures good Governance. When Social audit ensures transparency and accountability giving no scope for fraud/corruption, it makes less corrupt ‘cases’ to be investigated by initiating the proposed Lok Pal bill.
Of recent dated 24/04/2011 Environmentalist Mr. Baba Balbir Singh from Jalandhar has advocated Social Audit for the project relating to cleaning the rivers in Punjab. Two key reasons for conducting social audit for this project is to keep a hawk eyes on spending of the Central funds to prevent siphoning of funds by corrupt officials and to ensure the targets were achieved.
Apart from that, Social audit was conducted under NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005) which aims at enhancing the livelihood security of people in rural areas by guaranteeing hundred days of wage employment in a financial year to a rural household adult member.
Social Audit can be described as checking and verification of a programme/scheme implementation and it results by the community with the active involvement of the primary stakeholders.
This concept brings a different dimension viewing ‘People’ as Auditors who works with Government and assesses the performance of the Social activity. It measures the Social outcomes and makes a Social difference.