Institutionalization of social audit for major welfare schemes is the need of the hour as large part of the government’s budget is spent on them. What are the benefits of social audit? Citing relevant examples bring out the loopholes in its implementation. Also, suggest some measures for its improvement. (150 W)

Mentor’s Comment:

The question seems to be straight and forward and desires us to show benefits of social audit. Introduction should comprise the rationale of institutionalizing social audit.

Further, in the main body we need to link the institutionalized social audit with its possible benefits, focus on the role of community participation and compare it with traditional approach to audit.

Next, mention drawbacks focusing on socio-institutional issues and finally provide suggestions addressing these loopholes as a conclusion.

 

Model Answer:

  • Social Audit  refers  to  the  social  control  over  withdrawal  and  usage  of  funds  drawn  from  the  state exchequer  for  programs  and  policies  aimed  at  the  benefit  of    It  allows  people  to  enforce transparency  and  accountability,  thereby  providing  the  ultimate  users  an opportunity  to scrutinize the development initiatives.

Benefits of Social Audit:

  • Social Audit facilitates transformation of citizens from a passive recipient to a demanding client, thus making the Government answerable.
  • They help raise awareness about entitlements.
  • These Audits allow beneficiaries of different schemes to lodge complaints regarding malpractices.
  • Involvement of people in developmental activities ensures that money is spent where it is actually needed.
  • Unlike the traditional forms of audit, social audit is a continuous process and is more transparent.
  • Helps in Reduction of wastages & corruption.
  • Promotes integrity and a sense of community among people & improves the standard of governance.

The loopholes in the implementation of Social Audits can be best understood through the example of MGNREGA:

  • Very few states have actually instituted social auditing mechanism despite mandatory provisions in acts like MGNREGA.
  • The involvement  of  local  representatives  in  malpractices  has  sometimes  resulted  in  resistance  to social audits.
  • The audits are yet to result in effective redressal. While a modest decline in administrative complaints related to the non-provision of work was observed, there was an increase in complaints of missing records on material expenditures.
  • The impact  of  audits  on  other  programme  outcomes  —  employment  generation,  targeting  of  the SC/ST population — is often absent.
  • The follow-up and enforcement of punishments are weak. Also, there is absence of establishment of vigilance cells in most of the cases.
  • Relative lack of expertise among  local  bodies and  social  dynamics  sometimes  make  it  naming  and shaming exercise.

Suggestions:

  • Ensure institutionalization  of  social  audits  across all  states  making  it  enforceable  and  credible “contract” allocating responsibilities, defining timelines and ensuring prompt penalty to the guilty.
  • Capacity building  to  facilitate  beneficiary-led-audits  keeping  in  mind  local  circumstances  and empowering local participation.
  • Adequate institutional support and adequate budgetary provisions to ensure the viability of Social Audits.

Learning lessons and adopting measures to address all programme outcomes i.e. ensure impact of social audits in future course correction.

 

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