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


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.


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.
  • 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

  • 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