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Inaugural Meeting of Social Audit Advisory Body (SAAB) in New Delhi

Context:

The inaugural meeting of the Social Audit Advisory Body (SAAB) occurred at the Dr. Ambedkar International Centre in New Delhi. SAAB, established as a pioneering advisory body, holds the objective of providing guidance to the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment. The primary focus is on the systematic institutionalization of social audits across the diverse schemes operated by the Ministry.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Social Audits: Overview and Types
  2. Challenges and Solutions in Social Audits in India

Social Audits: Overview and Types

What is a Social Audit?
  • A social audit involves a methodical and independent evaluation of an organization’s or program’s social impact and ethical performance.
  • It scrutinizes the alignment of actions and policies with stated values and goals, particularly concerning their effects on communities, employees, and the environment.
  • Coined by Howard Bowen in 1953, it delves into the social responsibilities of businesses.
Key Features:
  • Fact finding rather than fault finding.
  • Facilitating dialogue among diverse stakeholders.
  • Ensuring timely grievance redressal.
  • Strengthening democratic processes and institutions.
  • Mobilizing public pressure for improved program implementation.
Types:
  • Organisational: Evaluates a company’s overall social responsibility efforts.
  • Program-Specific: Focuses on the impact and effectiveness of a particular program.
  • Financial: Reviews social and environmental implications of financial decisions.
  • Stakeholder-Driven: Involves various stakeholders in the auditing process.

Framework Associated with Social Audit in India:

  • MGNREGA 2005: Mandates social audits for monitoring work execution, emphasizing community-driven verification.
  • Meghalaya Community Participation and Public Services Social Audit Act, 2017: First state-level legislation in India, making social audits mandatory.
  • BOCW Act Implementation Framework: Issued by the Ministry of Labour & Employment for conducting social audits under the Building and Other Construction Workers Act, 2013.
  • Right to Information Act, 2005: Enhances transparency, crucial for effective social audits by providing access to relevant documents.
  • National Resource Cell for Social Audit (NRCSA): Established by the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment, ensuring social audits through dedicated units at the state level.

Challenges and Solutions in Social Audits in India

Challenges:
  • Lack of Standardised Procedures:
    • Absence of standardized procedures leads to variations in methodologies and reporting, hindering result comparison.
  • Limited Awareness:
    • Stakeholders, including local communities, often lack awareness and understanding of social audit processes, impacting effective implementation.
  • Incomplete Participation:
    • Limited involvement of marginalized groups in the audit process results in incomplete or biased assessments.
  • Political Interference:
    • Political interference can compromise the independence and objectivity of social audits, influenced by local authorities or figures.
  • Resource Constraints:
    • Insufficient financial and human resources in many local bodies limit their ability to conduct comprehensive social audits.
  • Struggling Audit Units:
    • Social audit units, designed to detect malpractice, suffer from a lack of funds and trained professionals.

Way Forward:

Blockchain Technology:

  • Explore blockchain technology to enhance transparency and integrity, providing a secure platform for storing tamper-proof audit information.

Simplify Processes:

  • Simplify audit processes and present information in local languages and formats for broader accessibility.

Diverse Participation:

  • Ensure diverse participation from marginalized groups, women, and youth through targeted incentives and outreach.

Uniform Guidelines:

  • Develop clear and uniform guidelines for conducting social audits across various programs and states.

Legal Safeguards:

  • Enact strong legal safeguards to protect individuals reporting irregularities, ensuring a safe reporting environment.

-Source: The Hindu


February 2024
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