Social audit is conducted by the community for the development programmes meant to benefit them. It attempts to bring the guilty to account- it worked in village Panchayats of Nainpur block of Mandla district of MP. Last year, Khurai block of Seoni district also conducted social audits for all the Panchayats. This was followed up with public hearing.
Social audit reports of 25 village Panchayats in Nainpur block of Mandla district were presented during the public hearing held on the 9th July, 2015. The jury recommended suspension of 2 Panchayat Secretaries and 1 Rozgar Sahayak. In Makee Panchayat, first information (FIR) has been registered with police against the Secretary for improper utilization and embezzlement of funds. In Palasundar Panchayat, the Secretary forged signatures to avoid Gram Sabha, therefore got suspended. In Sammapur Panchayat, the playground was constructed underneath the high tension wire, dangerous for the children and players. In Bhadya Panchayat, Rozgar Sahayak has been suspended as there is misappropriation of more than 9.6 lakh of NREGS funds and recovery notices have been issued for the Sarpanch and Secretary.
The process of social audits was initiated in the months of May-June by the village level social audit facilitators trained by the MP Social Audit Society. Samarthan collaborated with the Society to provide support. Samarthan team facilitated social audit Gram Sabhas in all the 74 village Panchayats of Nainpur block. Samarthan partnered with the local voluntary organizations, Green Brigade and Grameen Vikas Sansthan, to build a local cadre of social auditors.
Implementing agency plays tricks by providing incomplete documents or delay in submission of necessary documents. Therefore, the dates of Gram Sabha meeting got postponed, severely affecting quality of social audits. The village social audit committee existed on paper or most of the members were close allies of the Sarpanch or Secretary. In a few Panchayats, the facilitators’ team was threatened for exposing the issues in the Gram Sabha.
In certain Panchayats, the place of meeting was selected in such a way that most of the Gram Sabha members may not attend the meeting. Either the space was insufficient or did not allow the excluded communities to enter. In spite of all these odds, there was a positive response of the common citizens to participate in the meeting. They postponed meetings for few hours or couple of days, if necessary documents were not available.
The major issues emerged during the social audits were centered on delayed, inadequate or fake payments of wages. This was followed by incomplete works, less work than claimed for payments, particularly roads, dug-well and land levelling. The other set of issues were related to use of fake bills, change in place of works without permission or change in quantities in the approved estimates. In most of the cases, basic facilities of drinking water, Jhoola Ghar or first aid medical kit were not available.
Issues emerged from remaining 33 village Panchayats could not be tabled in Nainpur public hearing. There were many serious cases of embezzlement and violation of norms hidden in these social audits reports. It is a long battle of setting the culture of accountability; it is a small success of common citizens of India.