Meghalaya became first state in country to operationalize The Meghalaya Community Participation and Public Services Social Audit Act, 2017, a law that makes social audit of government programmes and schemes a part of government practice. It was launched by Chief Minister Mukul Sangma at a national convention in Shillong.
Prior to enacting this law, social audits of government programmes were done at the initiative of civil society organisations. These social audits had no official legal sanction. The first of its kind social audit law in country was passed by Meghalaya state assembly in April 2017 and was followed by pilot social audits for 26 schemes in 18 villages of northeastern state. At present, it is applicable to 11 departments and 21 schemes in Meghalaya.
The law mandates appointment of social audit facilitators to conduct social audit directly with people. The facilitator will present findings to Gram Sabha, who will add inputs and result will finally go to autonomous auditors.
Significance of social audit law
The law makes social audits part of the system as earlier it was civil society initiative rather than government-mandated. The social audit will make easier to correct course of scheme rolling along. It will give people direct say in how money will be spent and fills information gap for officers as they are directly in touch with ground.
The first of its kind social audit law provides legal framework for allowing citizens’ participation in the planning of development, selection of beneficiaries, concurrent monitoring of programmes, redress of grievances, and audit of works, services, and programmes on an annual basis.
Social audit is considered as grassroots method of auditing and stems from people themselves. It will make auditing more meaningful. It is considered as an extension of larger accountability framework. It will further lead to institutionalisation of participatory democratic governance.