Institute for Social and Economic Change
Working Paper: 457
Social audit of MGNREGA - A Panacea or a Placebo?
Issues and Ways Forward in Karnataka
This paper mainly addresses the question whether a competent, capable, and independent SAU (Social Audit Unit) existed in Karnataka with adequate human capacity building and financial resources and capacities capable to fulfill the aspirations of an effective social audit using primary and secondary data. Results show that social audit in MGNREGA, identified as a potential tool, has not been put to use by the authorities. SAU and their team have put their heart and soul and brought out meaningful reports with very pertinent and critical findings about misappropriation, financial deviation or non-compliance with important statutory and non-negotiable features of the scheme, but they have not been acted upon. The state has remained a silent spectator to the operation of ‘Shadow State’ and consequent leakages and programme distortion. In the absence of a credible enforcement and follow-up mechanism, and lack of exercise of ‘will’ of the establishment, the vast repertoire of pertinent findings of the social audit have remained decorative festoons hanging on the MGNREGA web portal. Clearly, this potentially versatile tool, capable of being a panacea, has remained a placebo. The policy implications and suggestions are highlighted for improving the efficacy of the programme.