SPEFA Stakeholders Learn From Hyderabad, India
In October 2015, the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development organized a study tour to Hyderabad, India, for key stakeholders of the SPEFA process to learn from the experiences of the Society for Social Audit Accountability and Transparency (SSAAT) on how to effectively engage citizens
in local government processes. Eleven key stakeholders, from MMAs, the SAU, FDU and LGSS, participated in the study tour from the 24th to the 31st of October, 2015.
The aim of the study tour was to provide a platform for local government officials and actors engaged in the LGCSP to learn from the experiences of India on effective ways to increase accountability of the local government system to citizens while at the same time promoting greater citizen participation in
local governance. Other objectives included learning from the experiences of local government structures in India on how to engage citizens more effectively and in a sustained manner.
Key activities of the study tour included two days of seminars with SSAAT and National Institute for Rural Development on the context of social accountability in India and the role of these institutions in facilitating social Audits of Government of India’s social intervention schemes. The discussion also addressed
the design, implementation, and outcomes of a range of social audits that SSAAT has conducted over the years. The team was also introduced to the structure of the local government system in India, as well as the development context of the Telangana State and the communities selected for the team visits.
The team undertook field visits to some villages and communities in two zonal councils (Block/Mandhal) where SSAAT was undertaking Social Audit of the Mahatma Ghandi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA).
The field visits gave the team a practical experience of the Social Audit Process. It included observation of enrolment of citizens onto the NREGA and verification of work done and transfers as well as interaction with beneficiaries on the benefits of the process. The team also had discussions
with representatives of the Gram Panchayat and Mandhal development officers.
Some key lessons documented by participants included the fact that institutionalization of social accountability will create a more efficient system for engaging citizens instead of the piece meal approach employed in Ghana.
Also, an effective social accountability system will require commitment from the state to pass the necessary legal frameworks and provide a solid financial backing. Predictable and sustained funding is also crucial for the success of social accountability processes. This will ensure that there will be adequate planning and monitoring of activities in the field to ensure social accountability work for the poor.
Since the visit, the SAU has developed a program to undertake pilot social audit initiatives in selected MMAs. These pilot initiatives will test the use of social audit on selected local government processes to enhance greater accountability. The outcome of these initiatives would be carefully documented
to make a case for legislating social accountability in our local government laws.