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Social Audit of Social Sector Schemes

  • 21 Sep 2022
  • 6 min read

For Mains: Social Audit of Social Sector Schemes and its benefits

Why in News?

Recently, the Rajasthan government has decided to set up a specialised social and performance audit authority to conduct social audit of schemes, a first-of-its-kind in the country.

What is the Significance of this Decision?

  • Ensure Public Accountability:
    • The authority will ensure public accountability, transparency and citizen participation in implementation of government schemes, programs and services, and also conduct performance assessment of implementing agencies.
  • Assess the Quality Service Delivery:
    • The authority will also assess the quality service delivery by the government schemes and programs.
    • It will also perform people satisfaction surveys to ascertain the outcome of various schemes.
  • Plan Social Audit and Performance Audit:
    • The authority will plan, conduct and finalise the social audit and performance audit of the government departments, undertakings, schemes (central and state), programs, projects and activities in the state of Rajasthan.
      • It will ascertain the efficiency and effectiveness of the services delivery and whether public money has been spent economically.
  • Identify and Build Capacity of Civil Services Organisation:
    • It will provide technical assistance towards effective implementation of various schemes and programmes; provide technical assistance to finance and planning department towards strengthening of annual plans and outcome budgeting; and assess the quality standards of development and infrastructure works in rural and as well as urban areas.

What is Social Audit?

  • About:
    • Social Audit is the audit of a scheme jointly by the Government and the people, especially by those who are affected by the scheme or its beneficiaries.
    • Social audit is different from financial audits which involve inspecting and assessing documents related to financial transactions in an organization to provide a true picture of its profits, losses and financial stability.
  • Social Audit and MGNREGA:
    • Under Section 17 of the MGNREGA, all works executed under the program must undergo a social audit.
      • Every Social Audit Unit is entitled to funds equivalent to 0.5% of the MNREGA expenditure incurred by the State in the previous year.
    • The audit involves quality checks of infrastructure created under the MNREGA, financial misappropriation in wages, and checking for any procedural deviations.
    • The report titled ‘Social audit calendar vs audits completed’ was released recently by the Union Rural Development Ministry (MoRD) highlights that only 14.29% of the planned audits have been completed in 2021-2022.
    • The Ministry also held that failure to carry out a social audit of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) by states will invite action, including withholding of funds.
    • However, it is the Centre that bears the administrative cost of these Social Audit Units, and the inordinate delay in the release of funds has left many of these cash-strapped units nearly paralysed.
  • Challenges:
    • Lack of Administrative Will:
      • The lack of adequate administrative and political will in institutionalising social audits to deter corruption has meant that social audits in many parts of the country are not independent of the influence of implementing agencies.
      • The Social Audit Units of some states such as Kerala, Telangana, Himachal Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh, had not received the administrative funds that the Centre owes them. Therefore, auditors’ wages have been delayed by three months to one year.
    • Resistance and Intimidation:
      • Social audit units, including village social audit facilitators find it difficult to even access primary records for verification.
    • Lack of People’s Participation:
      • People’s participation has been minuscule due to the lack of education, awareness and capacity building among the common masses.
    • Absence of Independent Agency:
      • There is an absence of an independent agency to investigate and act on social audit findings.

Way Forward

  • Citizens groups need to campaign for strengthening social audits and make real progress in holding the political executive and implementing agencies accountable.
  • Team of social audit experts should be established in each district who are responsible for training social audit committee members (stakeholders).
  • Training programmes should be created on social auditing methods such as conducting and preparing social audit reports, and presentation at Gram Sabha.
  • The system of social audits needs synergetic endorsement and a push by multiple authorities to establish an institutionalised framework which cannot be undermined by any vested interests.

Source: TH

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