Social Audit - A Silver Lining in the Augmenting of Public Policy: A Case Study of NREGA
13 Pages Posted: 15 May 2011
Date Written: May 13, 2011
Governments are facing an ever-growing demand to be more accountable and socially responsible and the community is becoming more assertive about its right to be informed and to influence governments' decision-making processes. Faced with these vociferous demands, the executive and the legislature are looking for new ways to evaluate their performance especially in the framework of public policies. Social Audit is a tool through which government departments can plan, manage and measure non-financial activities and monitor both internal and external consequences of the departments' social and commercial operations. In other words social audit may be defined as an in-depth scrutiny and analysis of the working of any public utility vis-à-vis its social relevance.
Programmes conceived in the recent past have inbuilt mechanism to promote all these components to enable people-centred policies and development. The creation of space for social audit under NREGA is one such step in this direction. One of the prime reasons for the victory of NREGS is the commencing of the policy of social audit. Social audit helped to plug in leakages and check corruption. However, another spectrum of reality is that on the ground these audits have achieved much less than advertised. The social audit process has a long way to go before it can claim to have contributed to transparency, empowerment and good governance.
The paper traces the importance of accountability in developmental programmes through the case of social audit in National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). Despite a common framework for social audit under the Act, different actors have adopted different approaches leading to different results. By analysing actual social audit exercises, the paper tries to identify the various constraints of social audit and lessons learnt, appropriate attention to which may make social audit more effective in future.
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