Social Audits on the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA)
The NREGA was launched in 2006 in 18 districts in Madhya Pradesh and a further 13 districts the year after. It ensures at least 100 days employment for all rural households. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) allows the Panchayats to implement systems for generating employment as well as meeting sustainable infrastructure. It further empowers the people to play an active role in employment guarantee through Gram Sabha, social audits and participatory planning. Civil society is also an important facilitator for effective implementation of the NREGS.
Need for Social Audits
Social audits are a mandatory provision of the NREGA to improve accountability and transparency. Every village has established a Vigilance and Monitoring Committee (VMC) ensuring social audits are carried out, whereby information must be provided to the Gram Sabha quarterly relating to employment status, unemployment wages, muster rolls, bills and vouchers.
We have sensitised the VMC to participate with the community as well as orientating them on their roles and responsibilities to create awareness of the concept of social audits. Social auditors include members of the VMC, the Muster Roll Verification Committee, the Worksite Verification Committee and the Community Mobilisation Committee as well as block level officials.
The social audit process works in three stages:
- The VMC collects information from the Gram Panchayat on NREGA related works.
- The records are analysed to identify information gaps with the community, the VMC and the three monitoring groups. It is discussed how best to present this information to the Gram Sabha.
- Community members are mobilised to address social audit issues at Gram Sabha meetings. It is necessary to ensure all community members are represented.
Samarthan has helped conduct 42 social audits in Sehore, 126 in Panna and 41 in Chhattisgarh, alongside facilitating trainings on the concept of the social audit, forming monitoring groups and community sensitisation on active participation in the Gram Sabha to build awareness of their rights. We have also supported the Panchayats to correctly maintain their records and registers and facilitated CSOs in the social audit process to build the confidence of the Sarpanch to conduct social audits.
Various challenges need to be overcome to achieve an effective social audit, for example poor documentation, non cooperation of officials to facilitate the process, non action from districts when reports are submitted, little time for social audits and therefore poor preparation, low capacities of field staff, low budget, lack of awareness on social audits, non functioning of the monitoring committee and the Sarpanch trying to avoid meetings whereby social audits are discussed.
However, citizens do believe social audits have improved record keeping in the Gram Sabha and the VMC alongside other monitoring groups have started supervising works to give their support to the Sarpanch.
Model Building on NREGA
We have concluded it is necessary to build model Panchayats which demonstrates better implementation of NREGA provisions and can effectively deliver rural employment under the NREGS. Samarthan, in collaboration with local organisations, in Sidhi, Shivpuri,