WILLIAMSTOWN, Massachusetts — Activists are using a new form of protest to illuminate aid delivery problems and corruption within their governments. This method, called social auditing, empowers the impoverished by giving them the data they need to fight mismanaged programs.
For years, people in South Africa have been protesting the poor delivery of aid services, such as toilets, water, health and education. While these demonstrations are an important part of building awareness, it is difficult to make lasting change with picket signs and good intentions alone.
“Social auditing” gives protestors ammunition against their corrupt governments. It involves gathering financial data about the aid delivery process in order to expose issues.
Ndifuna Ukwazi (Dare to Know) is an organization involved with an auditing campaign in Cape Town, South Africa. The social auditing done by this group revealed that the city was signing contracts with tenders to install toilets that were broken, dirty and posed a significant health risk to the citizens.
In an interview with IRIN, Ndifuna Ukwazi deputy director Jared Rossouw explained, “It’s about educating communities to understand the data so they know what’s being paid for, so they can use that information to conduct audits and hold government accountable.”
Auditing programs similar to the one used in Cape Town have been implemented successfully in countries like Mexico and Ghana.
In Mexico, a group called Fundar’s Subsidios al Campo investigated a government cash payment program. Through their investigation, it became clear that the cash payments supposedly going to impoverished farmers were only benefiting the wealthiest of them. Thanks to this social audit, the government created stricter rules and made the process more transparent.
A school feeding program in Ghana is now being monitored more closely thanks to an advocacy organization called Social Enterprise Development Foundation. Now that the community is more involved with the details of the program, health services, toilet facilities and education have all improved.
Although social auditing has been effective in some parts of the globe, it has not created the desired change in others.
In India, some audits are only “happening on paper,” according to Yogesh Kumar, an executive of an NGO that has pioneered social auditing in the country.
Even though there is an astonishing level of corruption and mismanagement being revealed through the audits, little has been done to reform the system.
However, Kumar projects, “a social auditing culture of transparency and accountability is building. The larger push will come when there is a strong political will for this, when the senior politicians take it up.”
– Grace Flaherty
Sources: IRIN, The Social Audit Network