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Can Social Audits Count?


  • Shylashri Shankar



This paper discusses the conceptual and operational problems associated with the social audit of a government scheme. It argues that social audits have not performed well in the National Rural Employment Guarantee (NREG) scheme because of three problems. First, conceptually, it has been unable to resolve the question of hierarchy. In a social audit, the relationship between the auditors (who include villagers and NGOs) and the bureaucrats is weakly hierarchical; the NGOs and villagers are part of the citizenry who elect political representatives, and these politicians in turn oversee the bureaucracy implementing the scheme. Second, operationally, the feeble hierarchical relationship weakens the enforceability of sanctions against errant officials and produces a disconnect between the substantive goals of the scheme and the procedural standards followed by bureaucrats. Third, the assumption underlying the social audit that given a chance, the community will monitor such schemes is also problematic. The paper highlights the arguments by assessing the performance of NREG social audits in three states — Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

Suggested Citation

  • Shylashri Shankar, 2010. "Can Social Audits Count?," ASARC Working Papers 2010-09, The Australian National University, Australia South Asia Research Centre.
  • Handle: RePEc:pas:asarcc:2010-09

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Prema-chandra Athukorala, 2009. "Trends and Patterns of Foreign Direct Investments In Asia: A Comparative Perspective," Departmental Working Papers 2009-08, The Australian National University, Arndt-Corden Department of Economics.
    2. Kimura, Hidemi & Todo, Yasuyuki, 2010. "Is Foreign Aid a Vanguard of Foreign Direct Investment? A Gravity-Equation Approach," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 38(4), pages 482-497, April.
    3. Ewe-Ghee Lim, 2001. "Determinants of, and the Relation Between, Foreign Direct Investment and Growth; A Summary of the Recent Literature," IMF Working Papers 01/175, International Monetary Fund.
    4. Kinda, Tidiane, 2010. "Investment Climate and FDI in Developing Countries: Firm-Level Evidence," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 38(4), pages 498-513, April.
    5. Crespo, Nuno & Fontoura, Maria Paula, 2007. "Determinant Factors of FDI Spillovers - What Do We Really Know?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 410-425, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Fox, Jonathan A., 2015. "Social Accountability: What Does the Evidence Really Say?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 346-361.
    2. World Bank Group, 2014. "Strategic Framework for Mainstreaming Citizen Engagement in World Bank Group Operations," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 21113, June.

    More about this item


    social audit; accountability; NREG; poverty; community monitoring; anti-poverty scheme;

    JEL classification:

    • H - Public Economics
    • H4 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods
    • H40 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - General


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