Members of civil society and the government came together for a dialogue on the need for more awareness on the importance of social audits as a tool to improve public service delivery and to bridge the gap between the citizen and the state.
This took place at a consultative meeting today organized by MSSAT (an independent social audit unit set up by the state) for reviewing the implementation of social audits and discussion on reforms for strengthening its rollout in Meghalaya. Justice Madan Lokur, a former judge of the Supreme Court, was the chief guest of the session.
Addressing the members, Justice Lokur congratulated Meghalaya on being a trailblazer by becoming the first state to pass social audit legislation in April 2017.
He added, “Social audit should not be seen as a means of finding faults with the departments or agencies implementing different development programmes but should be used for taking corrective measures to bridge the gap between the government intended objectives of the programmes and the beneficiaries. Key focus should be laid on creating a sense of accountability through the social audit for providing remedy for the rightful entitlements in the least possible time”.
Principal Secretary Sampath Kumar said that the whole intent of social audits is to be used as a tool to facilitate a participatory governance model in Meghalaya.
He added, “Social audit is part of an important mechanism for building the state capability while improving the citizen-state relationship. The State Capability enhancement Project (SCEP) was launched by the government of Meghalaya and social audit is an important pillar as part of addressing critical developmental gaps in the state”.
Ambrose Ch Marak, the Secretary of the Department of Education, said that social audits have been extremely instrumental to various government departments in gaining information about the implementation of various schemes. He spoke on how the department could learn how many schools are properly implementing the Mid Day Meal Scheme. He also spoke about how social audit is often viewed in a negative perspective aimed at finding faults. However, the positive aspect of social audit is that the community as a whole has been able to learn about their entitlements under the scheme.
Presenting his views, Carmo Noronha, director of Bethany Society, emphasized the need to use data collected through social audits effectively for improving decisions pertaining to policy reforms as well as improving public service. He also suggested that the social auditors from one village be deployed for auditing purposes in some other villages, on a rotational basis, to reduce chances of biasness and discrepancies.
Angela Rangad urged the need for making social audits in Meghalaya more open to the community as well as the importance of intensive awareness drives about social audit among people. She also highlighted how in Meghalaya, women do not have institutional decision making rights and opportunities, despite being a matrilineal society.