Inclusive Social Audits

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Social audits are a requisite tool under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) to monitor and evaluate the works that are being carried out under MGNREGA, in line with annual village plans. PACS has developed a new social audit model to better measure the overall impact of MGNREGA, especially focusing on the inclusion of socially excluded groups. This model has been taken up by various state governments. In total, PACS partners have carried out 593 inclusive social audits to ensure that MGNREGA work is benefitting all community members.

MGNREGA social audits

MGNREGA (the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) is a government employment scheme that guarantees rural households 100 days of paid work every year doing unskilled manual labour.

Under the Act every Gram Panchayat (village council) should have an annual MGNREGA plan that includes a list of all the projects that need to be carried out in the community. These projects could include building new wells, repairing roads or irrigating farmland. The resulting assets – such as wells, roads or irrigation systems – should be used and accessed by the whole community.

Under Section 17 of MGNREGA, independent social audits of the Gram Panchayats should happen every 6 months, carried out by a third party. These audits should be participatory, including all village members to ensure that MGNREGA works are being carried out inclusively, fairly and in line with annual plans.

PACS-trained social audit community facilitators review a well that has been built under MGNREGA in Jharkhand to check that it has been constructed properly and in-line with the MGNREGA plans.

Excluded from benefitting from MGNREGA

Due to their low status in society, socially excluded groups are often not included in the MGNREGA planning process and so the resulting MGNREGA projects in the annual plans do not benefit them. For example, a village Gram Panchayat may decide to carry out a “land improvement” project under MGNREGA, but this improvement will not extend to land that is owned or farmed by socially excluded villagers.

In addition, socially excluded groups also often find that they are unable to access or use those assets that are built, such as water pumps, irrigation systems or village services, due to discrimination against them.

A new way of auditing

The conventional practice of conducting social audits is often restricted to discussions on finance. The financial performance of the projects therefore becomes a de-facto indicator of the overall performance of MGNREGA.

However, PACS has developed a new way of auditing. Our social audits go a step further, not only looking at the financial aspects of MGNREGA works but also assessing issues such as the provision of worksite facilities, timely payments and how much socially excluded communities benefit from and are included in MGNREGA plans.

The key questions that these social audits aim to answer include:

  1. What is the status of the timely delivery of the entitlements and provisions under MGNREGA including job cards, work, worksite facilities and wage payments?
  2. Are these entitlements and provisions being delivered without any discrimination to various social groups?
  3. Is the process of planning for works being carried out in a participatory and non-discriminatory manner?
  4. What are the assets that have been created by MGNREGA works and how many of these assets are functional?
  5. How many of the assets were created directly to benefit socially excluded communities and help them to improve or enhance their livelihood opportunities?
  6. Do socially excluded communities have non-discriminatory access to the use and benefits of the community assets created under MGNREGA?
  7. What is the status of formation and functioning of the MGNREGA Vigilance and Monitoring Committee and how inclusive is it?

 Part of the PACS social audit process involves asking MGNREGA workers, like these women in Chhattisgarh, about their work under MGNREGA - how many days of work have they received and have they been paid on time?

The PACS social audit process

The PACS social audit process takes 5 days to complete.

  • Days 1 and 2: verification of information. This includes:
    • Visiting the work that has been done under MGNREGA and checking it against the annual plan and records of work
    • Inspecting all the surrounding documentation including requests for job cards, requests for work, assignment of work and payment information
    • Interviewing MGNREGA workers to find out when and how much they were paid, the conditions on-site, their inclusion in the planning process and to identify any other concerns they have
    • Carrying out resource mapping to determine whether the assets created by MGNREGA works are used and accessed by the whole community
  • Day 3: presentation and discussion of the initial findings at a Gram Sabha (village meeting)
  • Day 4: consolidation of the findings into a final report
  • Day 5: presentation of the final report at a Jansunwai (Panchayat-level public hearing). These public hearings are attended by members of local government, block level officials and relevant government departments, and the necessary actions are determined for going forward.
     
Social audit success

PACS first launched its social audit trial in 200 Gram Panchayats in 20 districts of Bihar and Jharkhand. Due to its success, the campaign was up-scaled to all 7 PACS states covering 60 districts.

In total PACS has trained 80 master trainers and 425 community facilitators to lead the social audit process – the master trainers are responsible for training community-based individuals to carry out social audits in the field. In total, 593 inclusive social audits were carried out in Gram Panchayats and villages to ensure that MGNREGA work is benefitting all community members.

In many states, the state government has now accepted the approach and model of PACS, carrying out social audits that include the participation of excluded communities. Indeed many of our Civil Society Organisation (CSO) partners have become part of resource groups in the government-led social audit process and many of the trainers and facilitators prepared under our MGNREGA campaign are being engaged to lead the social audit processes.

For example, the Government of Jharkhand signed a Memorandum of Understanding with our CSO partners in August 2014, assigning them to carry out social audits across various districts using the PACS model. In addition, PACS has been invited to be a member of the State Advisory Committee on Social Audit in Uttar Pradesh and our partners are members of the social audit cells constituted in Bihar and Jharkhand.

PACS has also been recognised by the Government of India's Ministry of Rural Development and is a named member on its Master Trainers list


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