Social Auditing is a unique way of assessing the ground level impact on the beneficiaries of any programme and address their grievances. It is a process where the implementation of a welfare programme is evaluated by the people themselves by comparing the ground realities with the official records. This concept is also symbolic of the philosophy behind the Right to Information (RTI) movement of “Hamara Paisa, Hamara Hisab.”
How social audits of government programmes work
Social audits help in highlighting gaps in the implementation of welfare programmes. For instance, recent steps have been taken to make inclusive social audits of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). The government scheme provides 100 days of paid work to economically disadvantaged households that ask for it. These social audits include public hearings where people assemble to present their testimonies of the works carried out, ensuring that they are implemented inclusively, fairly and as per plans. As a result, the citizens can see, hear and know what is happening also get their grievances redressed. The essence of this entire process is participatory democratic governance, which involves empowering the citizens. Therefore, training programmes are conducted to help them participate in the process effectively.
Meghalaya becomes the first state to pass social auditing law
So far, civil society organizations have initiated social audits of government programmes in India. However, recently Meghalaya became the first state in India to operationalize a law that mandates social audits of government schemes, making them a part of government practice. The Meghalaya Community Participation and Public Services Social Audit Act, 2017 was passed recently at a national convention which was attended by more than 200 citizens and people from state departments. The legislation, that is applicable to 11 department and 21 schemes, was passed on April 4. With this step, social audits received an official sanction in the north-eastern state. Programme Implementation and Evaluation is the nodal agency for implementing the social audit law and pilot social audits have been done in 18 villages. The social audit facilitator provides an outside perspective but takes into account the viewpoints and problems of those directly benefitting or meant to benefit from the schemes. The reports eventually come to the autonomous auditors, completing this making this grassroots auditing process.
Therefore, social auditing of government schemes not only helps in effective monitoring but also improves their impact by involving the most important stakeholders.
(Written by Arushi Sharma)