The practice of the social audit received nationwide acceptance with its inclusion in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA). MNREGA’s institutional architecture has advanced possibilities of extending the social audit to other programmes. The Parliament and Government through legislations and executive orders, have mandated audits of the National Food Security Act, Persons with Disabilities Act, National Social Assistance Programme, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, Swacch Bharat Mission, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan etc. The Supreme Court’s directive to conduct audits in implementing the Building and other Construction Workers (BoCW) and the Juvenile Justice acts have also furthered the impact of social audits.In issuing the Auditing Standards of Social Audit, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India laid down minimum standards of the social audit process that emphasizes independence, credibility, and quality.
Social Audit of National Food Security Act, Kerala
SAFAR has been conducting social audits of the National Food Security Act in collaboration with the Department of Food and Civil Supplies (Kerala), the Tata Institute for Social Sciences, and the State’s Social Audit Unit. The audit was conducted in a low-income residential area in Kerala’s capital, Thiruvananthapuram. The audit identified and highlighted limitations in digital transparency, emphasizing the need for ongoing citizen education on rights and entitlements—a necessity if digital tools are to be accessible to the ordinary citizen. SAFAR created an instructional toolkit for auditing the NFSA, which led the government to to conduct social audits in all its districts.
Social Audit of Destitute Free Kerala Programme
SAFAR facilitated a pilot social audit of the Destitute Free Kerala Programme of the Govt. of Kerala, in collaboration with the Kerala State Social Audit Unit. The Programme, implemented by the State’s Kudambashree network, identifies and assists “destitute” families through participatory processes with the help of local self governments. This was the first-ever social audit conducted since the Programme’s inception in 2004. Based on the successful conclusion of the pilot, the State Government has ordered audits to be conducted in other parts of the State.
Social Audit of Building and Construction Workers Act, Delhi and Rajasthan
In 2019, the Supreme Court of India called for social audits of the Building and other Construction Workers (BoCW) Act, which regulates conditions of employment of construction workers. SAFAR worked with civil society organizations and unions in collaboration with the State and Central Governments to pilot social audits of BoCW in Delhi and Rajasthan. The audits uncovered serious inadequacies in its implementation: instances of workers paying bribes to register under BoCW, a lack of information about status of workers’ applications, institutionalized corruption, and the exclusion of eligible beneficiaries. Upon its successful completion, the audit led to the implementation of several corrective measures. The national Ministry of Labour and Employment subsequently directed all state governments to conduct social audits based on the SAFAR pilot.
Social Audit Training and Pilots, Meghalaya
Meghalaya is the country’s first state to enact a law that mandates social audits across more than 21 schemes and 11 departments in the State. The law enables citizen participation in development planning, monitoring programmes, and grievance redressal of grievances. In a 6th schedule area like Meghalaya, it provides democratic tribal communities the agency to harness community decision-making to shape development programmes. SAFAR has collaborated the Meghalaya Government, civil society organizations, and the Social Audit units of Jharkhand and Telengana to conduct pilot social audits, steer training programmes, and draft guidelines.
Pilot Social Audit of District Mineral Foundation, Chhattisgarh
In trying to embed social audits in increasingly relevant areas, SAFAR is conducting pilot audits of the District Mineral Foundation Trust (Chhattisgarh), Forest Rights Act (Rajasthan) and Tribal Health Cooperatives (Kerala). Watch this space for more!
SAFAR works with Environics Trust and other campaigns to advocate for transparency in the mining and resource extraction industry. In 2018, SAFAR helped develop the India Extractives Transparency Charter to lay down minimum principles of accountability. We continue to work with several campaigns to enforce the Charter.