Transparency and accountability in action – social audits
This recent article on social audits describes the dramatic effects that experiments like these, currently running in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, can produce. Social audits give the poor the opportunity to hold to account those people spending money on their behalf, by giving them access to spending records as well as the opportunity to voice concerns, and the power to pass verdict, in public hearings. The potential from such a relatively simple experiment in transparency is far-reaching; giving people living in poverty the opportunity to feed back and interrogate the use of government money should have a major effect in reducing corruption. The specific local knowledge about people, projects and areas can even give a vital extra insight into where corruption may lie, as described in the New York Times article.
Although there are clearly problems that can arise when information such as this (for so long exclusively available to a privileged few) becomes available to all, these problems seem to highlight, rather than detract from, the importance of such projects. At aidinfo we believe that transparency leads greater to accountability, and that social audits like these are an innovative means of putting power in the hands of the poor – giving them a greater opportunity to improve their own situation, whilst simultaneously inspiring confidence in donors, and a greater sense of direct responsibility in those who are handling their money.