Comptroller and auditor general Shashi Kant Sharma has instructed all auditors general in states to institutionalize social audits and collect district level data on various social sector schemes. He has also asked them to synergize the social audits with the CAG’s performance audit on government schemes which incur an expenditure of lakhs of crores every year.
These social audits would primarily be on implementing agencies — NGOs and panchayat-level bodies — which are directly funded by the Centre but are not subject to checks by the government auditor.
“In an internal circular issued recently, the CAG has issued directions to all its auditors general (AGs) in states asking them to support the institutionalization of social audits, collect information on planning, quality assurance and other aspects,” a source said.
Social audit involves auditing of various schemes by non-governmental organizations and local bodies, other than the government auditor. Conceptually, it goes beyond the realm of traditional financial audit as it focuses on issues such as awareness, grievance redress and feedback about the programmes.’
With the CAG now hand-holding social audit units and shifting its focus to monitoring various schemes like MGNREGA, Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, Midday Meal scheme, Indira Awas Yojana and National Rural Health Mission, the performance of these centrally-sponsored schemes are likely to get better.
“CAG has told all AGs that we have to help social audit by giving inputs and hence strengthen it. We can advice members of social audit teams in gram sabhas, panchayats and NGOs on how to make reports, collect data and check if the programmes are being implemented as per the policy,” said an official.
The CAG has also instructed AGs to attend public hearings (jan sunvais), which are part of social audits for schemes funded by the Centre.
He has also asked the AGs to incorporate findings of the social audits in its own performance audit reports. The auditors are also supposed to help in capacity building of local social audit units by training and conducting efficient audits.
The CAG’s directions followed a recent conference he had convened (on March 10) where senior officials from Union ministries and states where invited to deliberate on the need for mandatory social audits of social sector schemes as they lacked transparency and accountability.
The CAG had said expenditure of central and state governments that directly impacted socio-economic development was estimated to be Rs 17 lakh crore in 2013-2014. “This implies that an average of Rs 2,656 crore is incurred as ‘development expenditure’ per district. But accountability and transparency mechanism in local bodies has not been commensurate with the increasing responsibilities and flow of ever increasing funds,” he said.
Stressing on the need to carry out social audits, Sharma said he has asked his audit offices in states to evaluate the quality of evidence emerging out of social audits and analyze them so that they can become useful in CAG audits. The auditor said a large portion of “development expenditure” was being executed through local bodies such as panchayati raj institutions and urban local bodies. “These local bodies are important service delivery tools and are performing most of the flagship programmes of central and state governments,” Sharma had emphasized seeking more vigilance on these bodies, particularly how they spend.