Comparative Study of Social Audit Program between Timor-Leste and India
By Tomas Freitas
The Social Audit concept according to Gahlot Sushmita (2013) was introduced by Theodore Kerps in the 1940s, when he called on companies to acknowledge responsibility towards citizens. The term of Social was proposed by Howard R Bowen in 1953, in his article on “Social Responsibilities of a businessman”, or in other words making business more accountable to the community. Nevertheless, the phenomenon of responsibility has shifted from company to state or from corporation to government. These days most companies are responsible to their shareholders and government is accountable to their tax payers, meaning their own citizens or communities.
The Social Audit is a mechanism to hold government accountable, and has been considered a very effective instrument for the participation of communities and people from rural and urban areas. The tools of Community Score Cards (CSRs) and Citizens Report Cards (CRCs) have provided very detailed information regarding the guarantee of good quality of public services from the levels of input, output, outcome and impact (The World Bank, 2007). In addition to the Social Audit, there are some other mechanisms which have been compiled with the state system, such as with regard to the rules of parliament for the monitoring of budget expenditure; the responsibility of the ombudsman to investigate corruption cases, the task of the inspector general for auditing mismanagement inside the civil service, and also including some other watchdog organisations that monitor government systems. The question is, if these systems are already in place, why then do we still need a Social Audit process?
This paper will analysis the concepts of social audits in India under Andhra Pradesh government and in Timor-Leste under Dr. Rui Maria de Araujo government, as well as will assess the implementations of the program in both countries.
Historically, the evolution of Social Audit in India was pioneered by a local NGO, namely Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) in Rajasthan. In Hindi the social audits is called “Jan
Sunwaias” or “People’s Hearings”, which is basically a public hearing attended by two sides, the service providers and the communities who have benefited from that particular government program. The process is simple - obtaining the information about approved budget documents, and then gathering elected representatives, local government officials and the community which is supposed to benefit from the program. At the meeting the facilitator reads aloud the list of projects or program and the concerned beneficiaries are asked whether they have actually received the proposed benefit from the program (Singh & Vutukuru, 2009).
In Timor-Leste, in order to implement the Social Audit program as per its mission, Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, DR Rui Maria de Araújo and the director of FONGTIL, Arsenio Pereira da Silva have signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the VI Constitutional Government and FONGTIL on 25 May 2015. The MoU referred to the agreement of a partnership for the implementation of a social audit program in Timor-Leste. According to Article 6 of the MoU, the Government and FONGTIL agreed to give particular attention to conducting a social audit in the priority sectors of Agriculture, Education, Basic Infrastructure and Health. The MoU also does not limit the possibility of civil society organisations to assign social audits in other sectors as long as it is based on the objectives and principles of the MoU, which has been described under Section 5 of the MoU.
In India, under Andhra Pradesh government, they have program is called The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) which is established under department of rural development. The Scheme aims to enhance livelihood security in rural areas especially for unskilled labor, this package ensures 100 days of employment at the minimum salary rate of rural households (Sushmita, 2013). Based on this arrangement, features for rural employment should include (i) water conservation (ii) afforestation and three plantations (iii) irrigation canals including micro and minor irrigation works (iv) provision of irrigation facility which belongs to land owned by castes and tribes (v) renovation of traditional water storage including desilting of tanks (vi) Land cultivation (vii) flood control (viii) rural roads including footpaths; and (ix) any other work which may be noticed by central government in consultation with state government (Ministry of Law and Justice, 2005).
According to the World Bank Group database in 2015 India had a total population of 1.3 billion, and of that number 270 million are poor, which means 1 person in every 5 Indians are poor, while 80% of the poor live in rural areas. Indian demographics are challenging and elements of corruption undermine the idea of social welfare, with citizens complaining of delays in or not receiving payments at all, no record of databases, and corrupt officials with bribes. According to the Transparency International Index of 2017 India’s Corruption Perceptions Index in 2016 ranked 79 of 176 and for the Bribe Payers Index in 2011 India was 19 of 28.
Timor-Leste with 1.2 million populations, and each population living under 50 cents US Dollar per/day, and according to portal Transparency International, Timor-Leste Corruption Perceptions Index of 2016 rank 101 out of 176 countries, according to last Human Development report, Timor-Leste ranked 128 out of 187 countries, and almost 50 percent of the population was estimated living in poverty and 70 percent of total labor force are considerable in danger (World bank, 2013), Timor-Leste also considered as the third-worst score on the 2014 Global Hunger Index, which already on stage “extremely alarming” (International Food Policy Research Institute 2014). According to the World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Indicators, in 2014 Timor-Leste ranked 21.5 out of 100 with respect to control of corruption. Timor-Leste also have weakness in rule of law were has scoring the country 10 out of 100 on both indicators, but on the other hand voice of accountability appeared relatively strong and receiving 51.7 out of 100 (World Bank 2014).
The Legal Frameworks
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) has been granted by a decree-law produced by the Indian ministry of Law and Justice, which is known as The National Rural Development Guarantee Act, No. 42/2005. Sections 17.2 and 17.3 clearly define the competence of Social Audits in conducting regular monitoring for all the projects under the scheme (Ministry of Law & Justice, 2005). The India government believes that the social audits will enable the rural communities to monitor and analysis the quality, durability and usefulness of the scheme, as well as mobilizing the awareness and enforcement on their rights.
In Timor-Leste to implement the social audit initiative, the Prime Minister has established the Social Audit Unit under Prime Minister Office. The Unit legally has been granted under the organic law of the Prime Minister’s Office which is in Section 6 of Diploma Ministerial No. 28/2015. According to the organic law, the Social Audit Unit has the following competencies such as; #coordinating with other government departments to collect all the information necessary for the completion of social audit activities, functioning as a single information entry point, #Undertaking information verification activities before sending respective ministries or non-governmental organizations, #Conducting coordination, within internal Government, with the relevant ministries in the context of social audit, as well as, #Coordinating communication with relevant external bodies, including with non-governmental organizations through the National Social Audit Network, in accordance with the rules in force, and, #Disseminating the social audit initiatives, in coordination with relevant partners.
In India, the Social Audits program is implemented by an independent body called Society for Social Audit, Accountability and Transparency (SSAAT). This institution has been created independently by the Department of Rural Development, under the government of Andhra Pradesh (Department of Rural Development, 2009). Some researchers have concluded that there are some reasons behind the successful implementation of the Social Audit program inside the MGNREGS, and those reasons are includes (i) The SSAAT has been setting up as independent society and backed by very strong rules (ii) It has an independent budget (iii) Complete autonomy from government control, and its own ability to select a non-government person as a director (Sushmita, 2013, and The Guardian, 2012).
Structure and coordination of Society for Social Audit, Accountability and Transparency
The role of the resource person includes coordinating and facilitating the social audit process in the allotted district, identification and provision of training to Village Social Auditors (VSA), and providing support to the VSA’s during the social audit process. Resource persons are based in up to 700 districts in 70 states. The resource person is initially drawn from civil society organisations and unions, and to become a candidate she/he must be an undergraduate, have a minimum age and have a minimum of two years work experience in social audit, or as a district resource person (DRP). To be a candidate for a DRP it is also necessary to have some minimum qualifications and demographics (Ministry of Rural Development, 2009).
In Timor-Leste the Social Audit initiative implementing by the Social Audit Unit, which is established under the Prime Minister Office and the unit has around ten staff which some of them civil servants and some are the political appointed. The unit have some target to be achieve such as, the unit has to: “# guarantee that citizens can obtain adequate, accurate and timely information, regarding the practices of transparency, efficiency, efficacy, and public participation, as a means for the public to be able to measure the performance of services, # provide assistance to civil servants to further improve their work and to improve the quality of public services, # facilitate civil society organisations, in their areas of interest, with the aim of assisting the government and its beneficiaries, # not seek to blame civil servants, but rather to evaluate the performance of institutions in terms of social, environmental and community objectives, # provide an assessment of the non-financial impacts through systematic and regular monitoring, based on the opinions of partners”. This is based on the MoU, Section 2, signed by the Prime Minister and the director of FONGTIL.
For the mission to succeed, under Section 10 of the MoU, the government has to commit to several responsibilities including: (a) responsible for the provision and guarantee of Policy Support, for implementation of the Social Audit activities through the whole country of Timor-Leste. (b) Responsible for the guarantee of Access to Information such as legislations, project documents, access to interviews and strategic and annual action plan documents. (c) Provision of all Technical Support for social audit activities. (d) Guarantee of financial support for capacity building activities for members of FONGTIL and other organisations. (e) Obligation to integrate Social Audit Recommendations into government development policies in accordance with the government annual budget plan.
General Structure of Social Audit Unit
Each of lines coordination has specific links between specific actors such as; #line coordination between community or ordinary citizens and the Prime Minister, #Line coordination between community/ordinary citizens and the Social Audit Unit, #Line coordination between community, ReNAS and Social Audit Unit, and #Line coordination between ReNAS, Social Audit Unit and the Focal Points. Please see the paragraphs below which explain each of the line.
Line coordination between community/ordinary citizens and the Prime-Minister
The structure above has defined lines connection of the Prime Minister Office with the society. The illustration above has described that the Prime Minister many times has receive direct complaints in written and oral from community and other entities such as civil society group, or individual ordinary citizens. Those entities normally are not satisfied with service delivery performance done by the government. And the mechanism of the complaints normally through sending a written letter directly to the Prime Minister Office and receiving by the chief of staff. And oral complaints usually happening while the Prime Minister visiting community in the municipality and sucos.
Line coordination between community/ordinary citizens and the Social Audit Unit
This lines connection have shown that, the community or ordinary citizens can complaint through written or oral directly to the SAU. The links also described that after receiving complaint the SAU has to verify fact and evidence refer to the complaint before make it decision about the case. The same mechanism also applied for complaint that has sent directly to the Prime Minister Office, which is the despacho that comes from the Prime-Minister through the chief of staff, has to be verify by the Social Audit Unit before addresses the problem or case.
Line coordination between community, ReNAS and Social Audit Unit
Based on the Memorandum of Understanding between the FONGTIL and the Government, the FONGTIL will provide capacity building to community in order to conduct a social audit program and activity. Through the link the community will get skills and hopefully will canalize their audits back to ReNAS and the FONGTI will following-up to Social Audit Unit, and the unit will try find solution for it.
Line coordination between ReNAS, Social Audit Unit and the Focal Points
If there is any case that has been found by civil society through audits activities, ReNAS will following-up with Social Audit Unit and the Unit will contacting the relevance ministries via focal points to address the issues. Vise-versa if the focal point would like to provide any official documents, it would necessary to go through the Unit for registering before handling-out the documents.
The assembly above have shown that the Social Audit Unit has play the key role in order to link the whole structure from the top level of Prime Minister Office down to community as ultimate beneficiary of the public service delivery. The Social Audit Unit has to facilitate communication between four priorities ministerial lines as mentioned above and the civil society groups, the Unit also has to make sure the case that has been upload by community through ReNAS has to be addresses by the government. The Unit also has to make sure all the cases have to be verified before reporting to the Prime Minister.
The vision and mission above has states clearly that the goodwill of Social Audit program has to be executing together between government and civil society. Please have a look the table below, which described some of similarities about the implementation of Social Audit program between Timor-Leste and India.
Similarities between India and Timor-Leste
There are similarities between the social audit process in India and in Timor-Leste.
The Civil Society in Timor-Leste
There are only few numbers of civil society groups are focus on this issue, and they have doing the social audit works since 2005 before the Prime Minister announced the idea. Those few NGOs are includes; Luta Hamutuk, Mata Dalan Institute, Luta Ba Futuru, Knua Haberan Komunidade, Fundasaun Ba Los, Hasatil and others, and most of them has focus on basic infrastructure delivery such as; roads, bridges, clinics, schools, clean water supply and electricity. So what is making different after the Social Audit Unit has been established? Well, before the VI constitutional government officially announced the engagement with the civil society groups in 2015, those NGOs as mentioned above, some of them already have good relationship with some line-ministerial, and they have access to some of important documents likes Bill of Quantity. Those NGOs have working together with the local media in many issues has published the works that has been done by the NGOs, for instances trough press conference and editorials, with the media the NGOs have successfully advocate their issues into public, and many of complains has been addressed by the governments. The difference with the Social Audit Unit, some of the NGOs has complaints that the Unit doesn’t have competence and power to ensure the relevance ministers to obey the social audit rules. Other complaints are says, that the Unit has hold up many cases and taking so long to response it.
The NGOs in Timor-Leste also needs some financial support in order to largely scale the programs in the whole territory, because at the moment they only doing few projects from in different municipalities.
The implementing bodies in India are conducting by staff of Society for Social Audits, Accountability and Transparency (SSAAT) which lead by an independent director with NGOs background, and plus others seven directors and 700 hundreds districts resources person that from civil society background as well. Now in Timor-Leste it’s around 30-50 people from 3-5 NGOs that working in the social audits program, if NGOs in Timor-Leste can get some funding and recruits more people up to 700 people like in India, believe or not, we can see the progress.
Even though legally guarantee under the ministerial diploma, but still the unit itself has some limitation in order to guarantee some delivery documents because some of line-ministerial do not really cooperated with this initiative. The documents in this situation, means document that has been requested by some NGOs, for example such as Bill of Quantity (BOQ) documents from some projects that owned by some relevance ministries. Some other challenges are includes, some ministers hasn’t yet appoint their own social audit focal points, even though the Prime Minister already asked them to do so. In Timor-Leste the social audit will works if there is a good will come from the minister itself. In spite, some NGOs that has been doing the jobs for number of years, but still many of still needs some training in order to conduct the social audit programs, and those training should be includes of how to identify the tools and how to use it, for examples; Community Score card, Citizens report cards, development check, and others tools that using for collecting data’s and evidences.
This paper has identified some similarities between India and Timor-Leste in order to run the social audit program. And those similarities are includes; legal framework, implementing institutions, and both institutions established under government institution, they have worked closely with civil society groups, and have their own focus sectors and programs, and both institutions also have used some similarities tools for conducting data collection of social audit project. And those institutions that implementing the social audit programs both also have institutional structures, as well as received some funding from their own government.
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