An official inspection of an organization’s accounts, typically by an independent body is called financial audit, which is very well known to most of us. If you have ever been a part of an audit, then most probably you would understand the position of an accountant during the process. How his/her face becomes pale while answering questions, if by any chance a voucher gets misplaced? And how all the bills and budgets revolve around his/her seat throughout the audit? People who come to audit a company, can ask any question to gain clarity of how money gets spent in the organization and why, if they don’t find it convincing.
Imagine this scenario in front of hundreds of people as a part of the audit team, and the organization working there, as the accountant. Such an event are known as Social Audits or Samajik Ankekshan, in which the villagers come together and audit the work of the panchayat and other local bodies like the NGOs working in their villages on how the public fund/state expenditure has been spent. If there are scheme, who decides who get the benefits from them? And on what basis? A social audit helps to narrow the gap between the objectives of an organization and it’s reality on ground.
In today’s scenario, the bureaucracy is empowered and protected with high walls against prosecution, because of which the differences between those who are privileged and those who are not, become fundamental in our country. Events social audits need to be nurtured in the political and developmental culture so as to build a bridge, or fill the missing links between the less empowered and the empowered population.
The MKSS (Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan) started the phenomenon of social audits in early 1990s to fight against corruption. They incorporated the Right to Information Act (2005) along with public hearings, known as Jansunwai (which is mostly held on one day of the week, where villagers raise their voices against any issue they are facing). Social audits happen with the objective of promoting accountability and transparency among the poor and illiterate population of the country, so that they are aware of the usage of government funds allocated to their region and the policies from which they can receive benefits.
For an official social audit, an RTI needs to be filed which is signed by the beneficiaries, after which the social audit committee decides to call an audit on the Civil Society Organization (CSOs), the panchayat or a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) working in that place. Some of the beneficiaries from the Gram Sabha are chosen for the physical investigation of the work represented by the organization in the village, which is know as Sampariksha Samiti or a vigilance committee. Various govt. officials are invited to this event from village level to state level officials, so that there is transparency in the whole system. 3-4 people get selected as the jury, among which one must be a government official, a trusted person from the village and a journalist or social worker working in the village, who, at the end of the audit announces the result and provides with the solution based on the facts provided.
The organization prepares all the documents, showcases all the work done by them in the form of charts and posters which are written in the local language, so that the literate population of the village can read and put questions based on the same. There must be a photo gallery as a proof of the presence of organization on the project site and most importantly, the accounts must be maintained in the files, so that people can see all the bills and budgets and the organization can present it whenever asked in the whole process.
Social audit is a very new concept in the development sector, which needs to be promoted and Samarthan, as part of this sector, is trying to facilitate this process by organizing various social audits of their own work done in the fields, this is to make the people aware of such events and strengthen the panchayat by actively participating in such events, and not hiding from them. This is how the system can become transparent and there will be less corruption in the future.
The problem with society with such disparity is that it creates individuals, entities and institutions which are beyond questions and scrutiny. The immunity from questioning transcends into lack of transparency which promotes corruption – From Advantage India (APJ Abdul Kalam)
This is such an informative and helpful post Sanjana, specially for the ones who know nothing about Social Audit. Bookmarked for whenever I’d need it again. 🙂
Thanks Swati 😁
So we recently had one of the founding members of MKSS Nikhil Dey come over to our convocation of the 2015 cohort. Of course i knew of their rti work, but did not know they were the ones who started social audits.
As part of the National Rural Health Mission’s community based monitoring and evaluation in Chaitanya – i did part take in a few Jan Samwaads. But guess my inherent temperament, kept me away from getting too involved in that work. I like working in silos more. This is a good reminder to me of my weaknesses … thanks!
I researched about it and then I was also keen to meet Nikhil Dey and know more about this concept. I felt great to be a part of India fellow. Hope I will get a chance to meet him,as I have so many question regarding the same. 😄
Behen…I gather this is something very important but somehow I didn’t enjoy reading it. I am a little weak in these matters, so probably its because of that. But going through the comments, I think you have done something really cool. So good job 🙂
😄 it’s ok Lekshmy. I am just trying to improve my writing skills day by day. Hope from next time you will enjoy the readings too. 🙈