- The authors, Sampath Kumar, Commissioner and Secretary, Government of Meghalaya and RakshitaSwamy describes about the importance of social audits, which acts as a strong tool for community participation and grievance redress.
- In April, 2017, Meghalaya became the first State India to pass social audit legislation.
- The legislation is known as the Meghalaya Community Participation and Public Services Social Audit Act.
- Later, the Meghalaya government decided to pilot social audits in a campaign mode.
- Eighteeen villages representing Garo, Khasi and Jaintia Hills were selected for the pilot.
- The purpose of social audits are:
- Citizen participation in the planning, implementation and monitoring of programmes;
- Detecting beneficiaries who were eligible, but had been left out;
- Sharing information about schemes, and enhancing awareness amongst people about their entitlements;
- Recording people’s testimonies;
- Identifying priorities for inputs for planning;
- registering of grievances;
- Identifying systemic shortcomings; and
- Recording financial and procedural irregularities and deviations between fact and record.
- Audits helped identify and bring about evidence-based policy changes.
- In India, there is a growing acknowledgement of social audits as a credible means of institutionalising citizen oversight. There is an urgent need to come up with a working protocol for facilitating social audits across a range of interventions.
- The Meghalaya pilots would have help to formulate a practical framework through which that can be done.
- Civil society needs to shape the social audit campaign, be a watchdog, and staunchly protect the independence of the process. Social audits must become part of the demand for effective legislation for the whole country.