Social Audits 

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Polity & Governance  ->  Transparency and Accountability

Topic :  GS Paper 2 - Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.

What is a social audit?

A social audit is a way of measuring, understanding, reporting and ultimately improving an organization’s social and ethical performance. A social audit helps to narrow gaps between vision/goal and reality, between efficiency and effectiveness. It is a technique to understand, measure, verify, report on and to improve the social performance of the organization.

Social auditing creates an impact upon governance. It values the voice of stakeholders, including marginalized/poor groups whose voices are rarely heard. Social auditing is taken up for the purpose of enhancing local governance, particularly for strengthening accountability and transparency in local bodies.

Objectives of social audit

  1.   Assessing the physical and financial gaps between needs and resources available for local development.
  2.   Creating awareness among beneficiaries and providers of local social and productive services.
  3.   Increasing efficacy and effectiveness of local development programmes.
  4.   Scrutiny of various policy decisions, keeping in view stakeholder interests and priorities, particularly of rural poor.
  5.   Estimation of the opportunity cost for stakeholders of not getting timely access to public services.

Advantages of social audit

  •         Trains the community on participatory local planning.
  •         Encourages local democracy.
  •         Encourages community participation.
  •         Benefits disadvantaged groups.
  •         Promotes collective decision making and sharing responsibilities.
  •         Develops human resources and social capital

Figure: Transparency flow due to Social Audit

Social Audit vs. Financial Audit

Social Audit is often misinterpreted as another form of audit to determine the accuracy of financial or statistical statement or reports and the fairness of the facts they present.

A conventional financial audit focuses on financial records and their scrutiny by an external auditor following accounting principles whereas the Social Audit is much more holistic having a greater scope for measuring, understanding and improving the social performance of an activity of an organisation.

Social Audit in India

Few example of legislative support

  •        73rd Amendment of the Indian Constitution empowers Gram Sabhas to conduct Social Audits in addition to its other functions.
  •        National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005(NREGA): Section 17 of this Act provides for regular “Social Audits” so as to ensure transparency and accountability in the scheme.

·        Right to information Act, 2005: This is also a key pillar of support for Social Audit system in India.