What is Social Audit Unit
A Social Audit is a way of measuring, understanding, reporting and ultimately improving an organization’s social and ethical performance. A social audit helps to narrow gaps between vision/goal and reality, between efficiency and effectiveness. It is a technique to understand, measure, verify, report on and to improve the social performance of the organization.
Social Auditing creates an impact upon governance. It values the voice of stakeholders, including marginalized/poor groups whose voices are rarely heard. Social auditing is taken up for the purpose of enhancing local governance, particularly for strengthening accountability and transparency in local bodies.
History of Social Audit Unit
National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 came into force in West Bengal along with rest of the country in 2005. This was later renamed as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
Section 17 MGNREGA provides for conduct of Social audit by the Gram Sava of all works executed under the MGNREGS. This has to be done at least twice a year and the State government shall facilitate conduct of Social Audit.
People are not unfamiliar with the word ‘audit’ but the same commonly relates to financial audit. Social Audit is somewhat different and it enables the rural communities, who are the primary stakeholders to monitor and analyse the quality, usefulness of 'MGNREGA works, durability of the assets created, as well as creates awareness and empower them to enforce their rights.
In West Bengal initially, social audit used to be conducted by the functionaries of the Departments. Later the responsibility was transferred to the Panchayats and Rural development Directorate. However, following the MGNREGS Audit of Schemes Rules-2011, West Bengal Social Audit Unit, along with 20 District Social Audit Units, was set up from May 1 2015 as an independent Unit within the WBSRDA.
Social Audit Unit, West Bengal completed the recruitment process of State and District Resource persons within August 2015. Three batches of Five-day residential training were held at state level to build their capacity and equip them to facilitate Social audit process through Village Resource Persons.
Village Resource persons at district level engaged through a transparent process and were trained under the supervision of Social audit Resource Persons posted at District. These Village Resource Persons were selected from amongst the Stakeholders of the programme and from outside the concerned Gram Panchayat.
As per the Social Audit Calendar notified by Director Social Audit Process started with the District Entry conference at District level organized by the DPC with the SAU staff, Program Officer, programme functionaries, PRI representatives of the identified Panchayat Samitis, CSO representatives etc. where the SA Calendar was shared and the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders were explained in detail. This was followed by the GP level entry conference attended by the GP level functionaries.
The next step of social audit was to obtain records from the GPs and start verification of work-site, meeting beneficiaries and scrutinizing the job cards, muster rolls, etc. and prepare a preliminary report on what transpired from these verifications.
A special Gram Sava meeting was then held to consider the field verification report prepared by the VRPs and validate the same as required by the MGNREGS Audit of Schemes Rules.
The date, time & venue of the Social Audit Gram Sabha was communicated to people in advance by the Gram Panchayat. Social Audit Gram Sava meeting has a few characteristics, like: This is an open forum, can be attended by anybody and participate in the deliberations.
Though the meeting is convened by the Pradhan, this has to be presided over by some other prominent local person decided by the people in the meeting itself. He should not in any way be associated with the implementation of the MGNREGS.
The District Programme Coordinator or the District Magistrate has to appoint an independent observer for the meeting to oversee that it is conducted properly.
'Independent Observer' – a Govt. official identified by the District Programme Coordinator or the DM, who is not involved in the implementation of the programmes is responsible for noting down the evidence in respect to any irregularities, mistakes, violation of rules/ guidelines etc as reported in the social audit report.
Entire proceedings of the Gram Sabha should be video recorded.
Once the Gram Sabhas in all the Gram Panchayats are conducted, the final action was to be taken in Public Hearing at Block Headquarter in the presence of programme beneficiaries, elected representatives, official functionaries at GP, Block and District Level, media, representatives of CSOs.
The District Programme Coordinator or DPC representative shall preside over the public hearing along with a panel that includes a senior level officer, representatives of CSO, media, eminent citizen etc. to respond to the social audit findings. The DPC is the responsible authority to ensure time bound action on grievances identified during the social audit as per section 3 of the Audit of Schemes Rule, 2011.
The Social Audit Public Hearing is also a forum that is open to the participation of all elected representatives, representatives of the media, representatives of CSOs, all interested people, implementation officials from Line Departments, Block, GP and District and programme beneficiaries.
On conclusion of the Social Audit Public Hearing at the Block level there should be a meeting called “District Exit Conference” organized by the DPC with the SAU staff, Program Officer, programme functionaries, representatives of CSOs, for discussing the social audit findings and reviewing the follow up on grievances raised. (District Exit Conference) As per Section 3(2) of the Audit of Schemes Rule, 2011,"a summary of the findings of the social audits conducted during a financial year shall be submitted by the State Government to the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.
  Social Audit was conducted for MGNREGA, IAY , NSAP from FY 2015-16.
  From FY 2018-19, State has decided to conduct Social Audit for National Food Security ACT (NFSA) and Vector Borne Diseases Control          Programme through Social Audit Unit.

Disclaimer: Site Contents owned, designed, developed, maintained and updated by the Panchayat & Rural Development Department, Govt. of West Bengal. Official Site of Anandadhara, West Bengal, India