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Social Audit Gram Sabha in MGNREGA

After the 73rd Amendment to the Indian Constitution, the Gram Sabha became one of the most important platforms for strengthening peoples participation in development programmes, decentralised planning and for activating grassroots democracy.

Gram Sabha: Composition

  • All the adults (above 18 years) of the village are members of the Gram Sabha
  • One Gram Sabha per revenue village or Panchayats as per the state specific Panchayati Raj Act
  • Gram Sabha is chaired by GP Pradhan/Sarpanch/any senior member of the village
  • Quorum (general and women) as per the State act
  • It is mandatory to conduct a Gram Sabha once every 3 months

Social Audit Gram Sabha

The Social Audit Gram Sabha is a special forum and not included in the 6 mandatory Gram Sabhas. The Social Audit Gram Sabha is mandated under Section 17 of the MGNREG Act. Social Audit Gram Sabha is the primary forum for wage seekers to raise their voices, make demands and validate the findings of social audit.

Notification of the Social Audit Gram Sabha

  • Date of the Social Audit Gram Sabha should be communicated to the people in advance. This can be done during door-to-door verifications
  • The date of the Social Audit Gram Sabha must be displayed on the notice board of the GP office. Additionally, posters about the Social Audit Gram Sabha should be posted in public spaces
  • Making announcements around the Village using a microphone or by other mediums to publicise the Social Audit Gram Sabha

Venue and Participation: Social Audit Gram Sabha

  • The Social Audit Gram Sabha needs to take place in a neutral place which is accessible to all the people in the village (with a special emphasis on the workers and members from marginalised groups)
  • The forum should be open to all the interested people, elected representatives, media-persons, civil society organisations (CSOs), implementation officials from the Line department, GP, Block and District
  • The Social Audit Gram Sabha should not be presided by the Sarpanch of the GP, as he/she is part of the implementing agency
  • The Social Audit Gram Sabha should be presided by a non-political person, who is widely respected, and can be decided through consensus on the day of Social Audit Gram Sabha by the Gram Sabha itself
  • The district administration must identify and depute an independent observer. The independent observer must be a government officer
  • The district administration has to ensure that there is a microphone and a banner so that the proceedings are clearly audible to all those attending it.
  • Video recording of the Social Audit Gram Sabha should also be done.

Broad Steps of the Social Audit Gram Sabha

  • Introducing the team and a brief description of the process conducted by them in the social audit
  • Selecting a chairperson by the Gram Sabha
  • Introducing MGNREGA, its objectives, features, and rights and entitlements of workers
  • Introducing the concept of social audit and its importance
  • Reading out the report of the previous social audit and action taken on grievances
  • Reading out the list of works executed in the village and the report card of the Gram Sabha
  • Issue-wise presentation of the social audit findings by the team. A copy of the report should be given to the independent observer to note down his/her decision
  • For each issue raised, the supporting evidence needs to be produced before the Gram Sabha
  • The implementing agency needs to respond to the issues raised before the Gram Sabha
  • The independent observer is responsible for giving his remarks on the each finding of the social audit after listening to the versions of
    1. Social Audit team
    2. Wage seekers and Workers
    3. Implementing agencies
    4. Gram Sabha
  • Remarks and comments recorded by the independent observers should be read out at the end of the Gram Sabha
  • VRPs to facilitate the workers to submit their grievances, register their demands for work and ensure that they get a dated receipt for the same
  • Vote of thanks
  • A copy of the Gram Sabha report to be submitted to the GP Office.

There needs to be a separate counter to register the workers’ demand for work on the day of the Social Audit Gram Sabha.

The Social Audit Team should ensure that the proceedings of the Social Audit Gram Sabha is recorded with the signatures of the members of the Gram Sabha.

Dos and Don'ts for the Social Audit Gram Sabha and Public Hearing

  • Open, public, easily accessible and neutral space should be used for conducting the Gram Sabha
  • Uniform seating arrangement for workers, PRIs and officers (all carpets/daris or all chairs)
  • Record attendance at the beginning of the meeting
  • Develop a seating protocol between the panel and implementing agencies, workers and the social audit team
  • The Social Audit team and the facilitators should independently convey information of the time and date of the Gram Sabha
  • Do one round of announcements on the morning of the Social Audit Gram Sabha
  • A list of testimonies should be prepared beforehand, and workers/wage-seekers should be motivated to testify. Efforts should be made to build their confidence to speak out publicly
  • Ensure everyone gets a chance to speak, not just the most vocal ones sitting in front
  • Make sure there is no proxy attendance being given by one person
  • Ensure that there is no digression of topics on any other issues
  • Microphones should be given to only the social audit team for facilitating the discussion and reading out the report
  • Try and resolve as many issues as possible at the Social Audit Gram Sabha. Concrete decisions should be made instead of mere suggestions
  • Approach should be one of reform. The positive aspects should come first, then the discrepancies. It should be ended on a positive note, motivating people to look for the way forward
  • Slogans and songs should be used to ease tension and create an enabling environment or to get people back to the focus
  • On-the-spot grievances, demand and job-card registration desks to be put up If a person goes back on their testimony, do not argue or refute– recognise and appreciate this and resolve it quickly, and then move onto the next issue
  • Keep valid supporting documents and evidence at hand for ready reference
  • Keep the Social Audit Gram Sabha short so that people stay attentive
  • Be sensitive to other non-MGNREGA grievances. Accept petitions and record issues, however do not let these take over the agenda.
  • Let these issues be taken up at the end of the session, if time permits
  • Don't make broad statements/generalisations about corruption and misappropriation
  • Don't make character judgments about any officials
  • Do not be confrontational and negatively portray the social audit process
  • Do not let any official appointed from the district speak on other issues for too long
  • Do not rely solely on the Panchayat to inform the people about the Gram Sabha
  • Don't lose your temper, do not get disturbed or lose focus. Be patient
  • Never ask whether the person has attended a Gram Sabha before. Ask the number of Gram Sabhas that were held in recent times
  • Don’t use an accusatory approach
  • Don't let people hijack the meeting or the issue. Take them aside or tell them they will get a chance to express their opinions later during the day
  • Don't give false hopes to people or mislead them. The Social Audit team should focus on the timelines for redressal

Non-negotiable principles of the conduct of Social Audit

  • The authenticity of the social audit process must be maintained under all circumstances. It should not be politicized
  • The roles and responsibilities of the Government/Administration and the social audit teams must be clearly delineated and each should respect the pace of the other
  • No official or political pressure should be brought on to a social audit process
  • Irrespective of which institution or organisation the person conducting the social audit might belong to, he or she is just a social auditor during the process. He/She shall not bring his/her personal or
  • organisation's agenda into the social audit process
  • All records pertaining to the works that are to be audited must be available with the social audit team before the process begins
  • A social auditor must be an impartial observer of facts. There is no space for personal opinions or likes and dislikes during the social audit process or at the time of writing the report. Only hard facts should be reported
  • The short comings in the implementation of the scheme at the village should be reported on an as-is basis with proof. Social audit reports must necessarily contain proofs on issues being mentioned
  • All the aspects of the scheme must be closely examined during the social audit process
  • One cannot jump to conclusions and form generalisations on the basis of talking to just a few persons. The issues must be discussed with all the wage seekers and the beneficiaries of the scheme before a decision is taken
  • There can be no space for any discrimination in the social audit process based on gender, caste, religion, class or occupation.

Community Mobilisation

Community mobilisation for the Gram Sabha/Public Hearing (Jan Sunwai) is an integral part of the social audit process. Community is a group of people living in the same place and/or having a particular characteristic in common. Communities can be based on their caste, religion, language, territory, common culture, principles, norms and practices, or common concerns. The most vulnerable groups in the village comefrom the lower castes, classes and other groups facing marginalisation and exclusion. Those who have seen or experienced oppressive domination in their own lives understand the complexity of the situation. Mobilisation is the process of convincing, and gathering people around a particular issue or sets of issues. Once people are mobilised, they can be organised for further action.

In rural India, mobilising marginalised communities is a challenge due to:

  1. the caste-based hierarchical society
  2. class-based domination of certain sections of people by others in the village
  3. the ways in which power is exercised by these sections to further their own interests.
  4. gendered power-relations

Social auditors can use various tools and strategies to mobilise communities such as:

  • Group discussion: Informing people about MGNREGA through group discussion
  • Door-to-door verification: informing people about their rights and entitlements during door-to-door Verification
  • Ward Sabha: Social auditors can organise a ward Sabha and discuss about MGNREGA and create
  • awareness about their rights and entitlements
  • A rally of school children with MGNREGA posters and slogans
  • Street play (Nukkad Natak)
  • Puppet show
  • Cultural programme
  • Folk songs and musical instruments
  • Involvement and Participation of Local Groups: Brief about MGNREGA and social audit to local groups including SHGs (with special emphasis on women SHG members), Bharat Nirman Volunteers, Motivators, Youth and Sports Clubs, Cultural Groups and involve them in the social audit process
  • Screening documentaries on village development, empowerment of workers and women, MGNREGA, RTI, Social Audit The focus of tools and strategies of community mobilisation needs to be on inclusion of the poor and socially excluded

Social Audit Unit

According to the MGNREGA, every State needs to set up a Social Audit Unit (SAU) which will be independent from the agency that is implementing MGNREGA in the State. The SAU can be registered as a Society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. The SAU must be headed by a full-time Director who should have worked in the social sector for the rights of the people for at least 15 years.

The key persons in the SAU include:

  1. SAU Director
  2. Social Development Specialist/Consultant
  3. State Resource Persons and thematic experts
  4. District Resource Persons (DRPs)
  5. Block Resource Persons (BRPs)
  6. Village Resource Persons (VRPs)

Social Auditors include personnel involved in the conduct as well as in the facilitation of social audit. Social Audit resource-persons (RPs) who facilitate the process of social audit are identified and positioned by the Social Audit Unit. They may be State Resource Persons (SRPs), District Resource Persons (DRPs), Block Resource Persons (BRPs) and Village Resource Persons (VRPs).

The SAU shall be responsible for:

  • Ensuring that a social audit is conducted in every Gram Panchayat twice a year
  • Ensure that social audits are conducted as per the Audit of Scheme Rules, 2011
  • Prepare a calendar at the beginning of the year which will lay out the sequence in which social audits will be conducted across all Gram Panchayats of the State, while ensuring that every Gram Panchayat is audited twice a year
  • Develop guidelines which will regulate all the activities undertaken by the SAU, such as recruitment, conduct of social audit, capacity building and training, and financing
  • Build partnerships with civil society organisations and academics to strengthen social audits
  • Build mechanisms to review the quality of social audits being conducted across the State

Roles and Responsibilities of the SAU Officials

Social Audit Director

  • To be answerable to the Governing board of the SAU
  • To manage the day-to-day functioning of the SAU
  • Ensure that all policy level decisions related to the SAU are implemented
  • Ensure that social audits undertaken by the SAU are in compliance with the Audit of Scheme Rules, 2011 and the state Social Audit Calendar
  • Anchor all interactions and communication with all the line departments where social audit is Undertaken

Social Audit Specialist/Consultant

  • Advise and assist director in the day-to-day functioning of the SAU and in policy decisions
  • To liaison with CSOs in the State to ensure effective partnerships between SAU and CSOs
  • To bring in grassroots experience in the design and development of social audit manuals, rules, guidelines and training modules
  • Guide and design the training process for conducting social audits
  • To evaluate the social audit process and the guide the resource-person for effective implementation of social audit

District Resource Persons

  • Participate in drawing up the schedule of social audits
  • Responsible for identification and training of VRPs
  • Mobilising wage-seekers and create awareness on programmes
  • Present the social audit report in the public hearing without any dilution
  • Submit the final social audit report to the administration as well as SAU

Village Resource Persons (VRPs)

VRPs serve as the most important link in the chain of the social audit process. They are the ones who perform the extremely significant role of providing assistance, support and handholding to the community members so that the latter can conduct a social audit of their Gram Panchayat.

The following are the key functions of the VRPs during a social audit:

  • Verify whether MGNREGA wage-seekers receive all their rightful entitlements
  • Verify whether assets created under MGNREGA were built as per the norms recorded
  • Assess who is drawing benefits from the works created under MGNREGA and whether works were created keeping in mind the local development requirements of the GP
  • Verify whether processes of implementation of MGNREGA in the GP were as per the provisions of the Act and its guidelines
  • Ensure proactive disclosure of all information pertaining to MGNREGA to the residents of the GP in a manner that is easily understandable

Source : Village Resource Persons Training Manual for Social Audit of Managers



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