New Delhi, December 19, 2009

Two day Social Accountability (SAc) meet concluded with a call to governments to invest more in mechanisms to ensure accountability and to institutionalize such mechanisms in large scale programmes to improve public expenditure outcomes. Investment in accountability mechanisms by the government is a prerequisite to enhance the outcomes of the welfare schemes. Less than one percent of the budget of any scheme, if invested in accountability mechanism, can do wonder said Parmesh Shah, Lead Rural development Specialist, The World Bank and George Cheriyan, Director, CUTS International, principal organizers of the workshop. This message emerged out of discussions took place in the two day Workshop on ‘Social Accountability in India: Moving from Mechanisms to Outcomes and Institutionalization in Large Scale Public Programmes’ held on December 16-17 in Jaipur organised jointly by CUTS International and the World Bank.

The following were some of the key outcomes emerged out of the deliberations of the workshop.

No substitute to mobilising local government and people for greater accountability

Dire need of investment on both institutions of Panchayat and users of services and technical assistance at all levels

Need to build some facilitation structure from government and CSOs for nurturing institutions

Need of getting enough legal provisions and to strengthen knowledge management structure

On the concluding day of the workshop, Om Prakash Arya (Project Coordinator, CUTS) and George Cheriyan (Director, CUTS) presented the learning of the implementation of its social accountability intervention in NREGS in Sirohi district of Rajasthan. By endorsing the impacts and outcomes of the intervention district collector Sawai Madhopur, Mr. Siddharth Mahajan said, any mechanism which can give the administration a systematic feedback and a way forward to act upon is helpful in taking corrective measures. The use of Citizen Report Card in NREGS provided him an insight to take rectifying steps in order to improve the service delivery, he said. Mr. T R Raghunandan, principal secretary, Department of Rural Development & Panchayati Raj, Government of Karnataka raised the issue of collusion between corrupt collectors, Pradhan and sarpanch to pressurize the government to not involve the civil society organizations (CSOs) in the process of social audit in Rajasthan. He called upon the CSOs to take part in debate to break this collusion and ‘collectorization’ of the NREGS. Mr. D K Jain, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Government of India moderated the session.

Mr. B. Rajsekhar (IAS), Director, Social Audit, Government of Andhra Pradesh, presented the key success factors and various steps of the social audit process taking place in Andhra Pradesh. He faced severe criticism of violating several sections of NREGA and by passing the Panchayathi Raj Institutions it will lead to a severe breakdown as sarpanch union will go to the court very soon. Prof. Ashwani Kumar, Member, Central Employment Guarantee Council, showed his consent of the criticism but he said that he is in favor of Andhra model of social audit and informed the audience that very soon central government is going to issue the order to replicate the Andhra Model in all the states. The issue of Social Audit not happening in real sense in any other states was also discussed during the session. Mr. T R Raghunandan suggested for ombudsperson and the inclusion of Sarpanch and representative of Civil Society Organization in the board of the society responsible for conducting social audit.

A N P Sinha, Secretary, Ministry of Panchayati Raj, Government of India and C D Arha, Chief Information Commissioner, Andhra Pradesh delivered the addresses in the valedictory session. C D Arha pointed out RTI as a single act which empowers people of India and not the government and suggested to use it as a social accountability tool. A N P Sinha suggested that all the efforts and interventions should strengthen the existing system of local self government and existing institutions and should not try to create parallel systems. He cautioned, glorifying successes in isolated interventions and instead said to look at the elements, which made those interventions successful and to scale up those elements.

Earlier, while inaugurating the workshop, Rajasthan Minister for Rural Development and Panchayathi Raj, Bharat Singh, country has progressed a lot in the area of health, education etc but have deteriorated further in extracting accountability after independence. The outcomes are not always in proportion of the amount of expenditures made for the social development schemes and programs. This is where the question of accountability comes in. Further he pointed out the need of introspection by every one. He questioned how you place accountability unless you ask the same question from yourself. Quoting Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, he said that Bharat Mata is the all the people of this country. Thus it is individual responsibility and accountability which improves the country.

Ms. Giovanna Prennushi, the economic advisor of the World Bank, stated in her keynote address that World Bank is trying to incorporate Social accountability mechanism in flagship schemes for better public expenditure outcomes. Sharing the personal experience, she said that during her work in the area of development, she has understood the importance of community activism and it is the best way to extract accountability.

Parmesh Shah, Lead Rural Development Specialist of the World Bank stated in his opening remarks about the need of institutionalizing a system by which public expenditure outcomes can be enhanced. The experiences which are accompanied by achievement and outcomes should be incorporated in the system. He put a question that in spite of all our efforts of CSOs and Government policies, the changes are not achieving the outcomes.

Citizens have the right to demand accountability and public actors have an obligation to be accountable to its citizens. It is the fundamental principal of democracy. The challenge institutionalizing the Social accountability mechanism in the system, however there are enabling environment for good governance in the country, said George Cheriyan, Director, CUTS in his introductory remarks.

To deliberate on possible strategies for Institutionalization, Scale-up and Replication of social accountability approaches based on the learning from social accountability pilot interventions and their impacts and outcomes, The World Bank and Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS International) jointly organized the two day Workshop on ‘Social Accountability in India in Country Inn Suites, Jaipur. About 70 participants including senior policy makers and high level authorities from various government departments related to development, academia and prominent civil society organizations from various states are participating in the workshop.