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Social Audit Advisory Body

  • 23 Jan 2024
  • 6 min read

For Prelims: Social Audit Advisory Body, Framework Associated with Social Audit in India, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act , Gram sabha, Right to Information Act, 2005, National Resource Cell for Social Audit.

For Mains: Key Features of Social Audit, Challenges Related to Social Audit In India.

Source: IE

Why in News?

Recently, the inaugural meeting of the Social Audit Advisory Body (SAAB) took place at the Dr. Ambedkar International Centre in New Delhi.

  • This pioneering advisory body aims to guide the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment in the institutionalisation of social audits across its diverse schemes.

What is a Social Audit?

  • About:
    • A social audit is a systematic, independent assessment of an organization's or program's social impact and ethical performance.
    • It evaluates how well their actions and policies align with their stated values and goals, particularly regarding their impact on communities, employees, and the environment.
      • Howard Bowen proposed the term “social audit” in his 1953 book Social Responsibilities of the Businessman.
  • Key Features of Social Audit:
    • Fact finding not fault finding.
    • Creating the space and platform for dialogue among various levels of stakeholders.
    • Timely grievance redressal.
    • Strengthening the democratic process and institutions.
    • Building people's pressure for better implementation of programmes.
  • Types of Social Audits:
    • Organisational: Assessing a company's overall social responsibility efforts.
    • Program-Specific: Focusing on a particular program's impact and effectiveness.
    • Financial: Reviewing the social and environmental implications of financial decisions.
    • Stakeholder-Driven: Involving various stakeholders in the auditing process.

Note

In India, Tata Iron and Steel Company Limited (TISCO), Jamshedpur, was the first company to perform social audits in 1979 for measuring its social performance. Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) started the concept of social audit while fighting corruption in the public works in the early 1990s.

  • Framework Associated with Social Audit in India:
    • Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) 2005: Section 17 of the Act stipulates that the gram sabha is responsible for monitoring work execution.
      • Independent social audit units in each state are mandated to operate independently from implementing authorities, emphasising community-driven verification of program implementation.
    • The Meghalaya Community Participation and Public Services Social Audit Act, 2017: This state-level legislation stands as the first of its kind in India, making social audits a mandatory practice.
    • Framework for Social Audit on Implementation of BOCW Act: The Ministry of Labour & Employment has issued a framework for conducting social audits under the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 2013.
    • Right to Information Act, 2005: It has played a significant role in supporting the Social Audit system in India. It enhances transparency and access to information, which underpins the effectiveness of social audits by providing access to relevant documents and data.
    • National Resource Cell for Social Audit (NRCSA): The Department of Social Justice and Empowerment has established the NRCSA. This entity ensures social audits through dedicated Social Audit Units at the state level.
  • Challenges Related to Social Audit In India:
    • Lack of Standardization: The absence of standardised procedures for social audits lead to variations in methodologies and reporting. A lack of uniformity makes it difficult to compare results across different projects and regions.
    • Lack of Awareness and Capacity: Limited awareness and understanding of social audit processes among stakeholders, including local communities, can hinder effective implementation.
      • Limited participation from marginalized or vulnerable groups in the social audit process lead to incomplete or biased assessments.
    • Political Interference: Social audits face political interference, influencing the independence and objectivity of the audit process. Pressure from local authorities or political figures can compromise the integrity of the findings.
    • Resource Constraints: Social audits require resources, both financial and human. Many local bodies lack the necessary funds and expertise to conduct comprehensive social audits, limiting their effectiveness.
    • Limited Capacity and Training: The social audit units, which are meant to detect any cases of malpractice, are suffering because of lack of funds and trained professionals.

Way Forward

  • Blockchain for Transparency: Explore the use of blockchain technology to enhance transparency and integrity in social audits. Blockchain can provide a secure and tamper-proof platform for storing audit information, ensuring the authenticity of data.
  • Accessibility and Representation: Simplify audit processes and make information readily available in local languages and formats.
    • Ensure diverse participation from marginalised groups, women, and youth through targeted incentives.
  • Standardisation and Whistleblower Protection: Develop clear and uniform guidelines for conducting social audits across different programs and states.
    • Enact strong legal safeguards to protect individuals who report irregularities.

UPSC Civil Services Examination, Previous Year Question:

Q. An independent and empowered social audit mechanism is an absolute must in every sphere of public service, including judiciary, to ensure performance, accountability and ethical conduct. Elaborate. (2021)

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