Social audit as a term was used as far back as the 1950s. In a nutshell, it refers to the steps that are taken to ensure that the work done by the government is actually benefiting the people whom it is intended to benefit. It is based on the principle that the local governance should be carried out, as much as possible, with the consent and in complete understanding of the requirements of the people concerned. It is a process and not an event. Thus, Social Audit is nothing but understanding, measuring, reporting, and most importantly improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the local governance. India being a welfare state, several programs and policies are implemented for the benefit of people. Politicians and executives are usually the ones who control and implement these policies. Some policies are common to all and some are special that are meant to benefit the weaker sections of the society. To implement all such policies, funds are drawn from the state exchequer. The social control over withdrawal and usage of this fund is called Social Audit.
DEFINITION : Social Audit is a process that enables citizen of a Gram Panchayat to assess and demonstrate social, economic, and environmental benefits and limitations of a scheme on a citizen of a gram Panchayat Social auditing provides an assessment of the impact of scheme non-financial objectives through systematically and regularly monitoring its performance and the views of its stakeholders. Social auditing requires the involvement of stakeholders. This may include employees, clients, volunteers, funders, contractors, suppliers and local residents interested in the scheme.
OBJECTIVES OF SOCIAL AUDIT :
Accurate identification of requirements
Prioritization of developmental activities as per requirements
Proper utilization of funds
Conformity of the developmental activity with the stated goals
Quality of service
Assessing the physical and financial gaps between needs and resources available for local development
Creating awareness among beneficiaries
Increasing efficacy and effectiveness of local development programmes
Estimation of opportunity cost for stakeholders of not getting timely access to public services
Scrutiny of various policy decisions
IMPLEMENTATION OF SOCIAL AUDIT
1. Empowerment of people : Social audit is most effective when the actual beneficiaries of an activity are involved in it. However, people can only get involved in the process when they are given appropriate authority and rights. To this end, the 73rd amendment of the constitution has empowered the Gram Sabha to conduct social audit. This is relevant only in the villages. In the cities, the Right to Information Act empowers the people to inspect public records.
2. Proper Documentation : Every thing right from the requirement gathering to planning to implementation must be properly documented. Some of the documents that should be made mandatory are:
Applications, tenders, and proposals Financial statements, income – expense statements. Registers of workers Inspection reports.
3. Accessibility of Documents : Merely generating documents is useless if they are not easily accessible. In this information age, all the documents must be put on line.
4. Punitive Action : The final and most important provision, about which nothing is being done yet is to have punitive actions for non-conformance of the process of social audit. Unless there is legal punishment, there will be no incentive for the people in authority to implement the processes in a fair manner.
GENERIC STEPS FOR SOCIAL AUDIT
Clarity of purpose and goal 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.