Justice Madan Lakur Meghalaya
Justice Madan Lakur addressing a gathering in Shillong.

Members of civil society and government agencies came together in Meghalaya for strengthening social audits in the state.

They came together in Shillong on Saturday for a dialogue on the need to create awareness on the importance of social audit as a tool to improve public service delivery and to bridge the gap between the citizen and the state.

This took place at a confluence of ideas and suggestions on Saturday during a consultative meeting organized by MSSAT, an independent social audit unit set up by the state, for reviewing the implementation of social audits and discussion on reforms for strengthening its rollout in Meghalaya.

The session was held at the Conference Hall of Hotel Polo Towers in Shillong on Saturday.

Former Supreme Court Judge, Justice Madan Lokur was the Chief Guest of the session.

“Addressing the members, Justice Madan Lokur congratulated Meghalaya on being a trailblazer by becoming the first state in India to pass a social audit legislation in April 2017,” said a press release.

Justice Lakur said, “Social audit should not be seen as a means of finding faults with the departments or agencies implementing different development programmes, but should be used for taking corrective measures to bridge the gap between the government intended objectives of the programs and the beneficiaries.”

“Key focus should be laid on creating a sense of accountability through the social audit for providing remedy for the rightful entitlements in the least possible time,” Justice Lakur said.

He also stated that the whole idea of social audit exists to help people, and this intention should guide the entire social audit process in the state.

Sampath Kumar, Principal Secretary, Programme Implementation & Evaluation Department, Meghalaya, while delivering the welcome address said the whole intent of social audit is to be used as a tool to facilitate a participatory governance model in Meghalaya.

He stressed the need for such consultative meetings to bring about constructive reforms in the Act as a way forward.

He added, “Social audit is part of an important mechanism for building the state capability while improving the citizen-state relationship.”

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The State Capability Enhancement Project (SCEP) was launched by the Meghalaya government and social audit is an important pillar as part of addressing critical developmental gaps in the state.

The consultative session also witnessed a detailed overview by the Director of MSSAT, Shantanu Sharma, on the legal framework for accountability under the Meghalaya Community Participation and Public Services Social Audit Act, 2017 (Act No. 7 of 2017) and Rules as well as an overview of social audits implementation status and institutional architecture of MCP&PSSA Act.

Some key findings following various audits in the State were also presented before the members present at the meeting.

The consultative session witnessed the presence of stakeholders from the government departments as well as the civil society.

Senior government officials including Shantanu. S. Sharma, Director, MSSAT, Sibhi Chakrabarty, Secretary, C&RD and Ambrose Ch. Marak, Secretary, Department of Education among others represented the various government departments at the session.

Ambrose Ch. Marak, Secretary, Department of Education said social audit has been extremely instrumental to various government departments in gaining information about the implementation of various schemes.

He spoke on how through the social audit, the department could learn how many schools are properly implementing the Mid Day Meal Scheme.

Presenting his views, Carmo Noronha, Director, Bethany Society, Shillong emphasized the need to use data collected through social audit effectively for improving decisions pertaining to policy reforms as well as improving public service.

Clement Mawlong, a representative of a community institution laid emphasis on the need of having an ombudsman in place to specifically address grievances related to the social audit process.

Bah Thomas from Bosco Integrated Development Society emphasized the effective use of social audit for the government in taking corrective actions after the detection of certain anomalies in the audit process.

Kong Angela Rangad urged the need for making social audit in Meghalaya more open to the community as well as the importance of intensive awareness drives about social audit among people.

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