(1) The social auditor has to face several problems which are beyond his control. Not all social welfare programmes are well designed or based on valid assumptions. Some programmes do not attack the problems at the first level of symptom cause relationship, but at remote levels and so are destined to achieve only moderate success. Others ignore the need for a package of programmes to simultaneously attack a variety of related unsatisfactory social situations. For instance, a programme for the improvement of rural health must be part of a well designed project containing several individual programmes dealing with the related issues of rural housing, rural water supply, education, nutrition, rural pollution, rural trade and industries for generation of income etc. And when a programme is well designed, it does not make the social auditor’s task any easier because, in preparing the social audit report on a programme, he has also to consider how the related programmes are progressing.
(2) Perhaps the most serious difficulty faced by the social auditor is the absence of a well conceived information system as part and parcel of a social welfare programme. Government agencies which design programmes often commit the error of relying on traditional government systems of information such as government accounts and government methods of reporting for conveying a picture of how a programme is progressing. This kind of hazy and incomplete system does not help them to take stock, speed up, slow down or apply corrective measures as and when required. In any case, the system can give no information on the social changes achieved, nor on how other related programmes have affected a programme. Thus a fundamental defect in the design of most social welfare programmes is the fact that they do not provide for the measurement or assessment of the social changes. That is to say, they do not provide for an internal evaluation machinery, in terms of men and methodology, for evaluation of the impact produced by the programmes. Nowhere else as much as in social audit is the fundamental truth more obvious that where an implementing agency does not itself have the means and methodology to assess performance, no worthwhile audit can be done.
(3) Apart from these problems of a general kind, individual programmes pose their own specific problems to the social auditor. To give an example, a programme for immunisation of a section of the people against a disease by vaccination may show measurable effect only several years after it is implemented. Likewise, a programme of adult literacy in rural areas cannot be evaluated fairly unless information is available on the migration of educated villagers to urban areas. Almost every social welfare programme will present some such special feature whose import has to be fully grasped by the social auditor.
(4) Social audit
of public utilities and public undertakings face its own problems, the most
important of which is again a reliable information system. Utilities maintain
detailed records of what they do but hardly any of how their functioning
influences society. They have records of services offered but hardly any of
services refused. Even where such records are maintained they do not give a
complete picture. For instance, a telephone company may maintain records of how
many people applied for a telephone connection and how many applications could
not be complied with. But they cannot and do not keep any record of how many
people who wished to have a telephone did not even take the trouble of giving
an application knowing that they were unlikely to get a quick response.
(5) The concept of social accounting, which is briefly explained subsequently, hardly exists- even in technologically advanced countries. In the absence of such an accounting system, social audit can become useless. Unless the auditor plans his work with the greatest care a straight forward economy or efficiency audit can never be achieved.
Q.5. Write a brief note on social audit methodology.
Ans. It is better to speak of social audit methodology rather than social audit techniques. Techniques of audit evaluation and analysis are not special to social audit and are the same as employed elsewhere, notably in economy and efficiency audits. But social audit methodology has to be devised keeping in view all the general problems as well as those which are specific to the programmes audited.
Social Audit Methodology : To begin with, the social auditor has to gather background information:
(1) What survey was made before the social welfare programme was drawn up?
(2) What was the state of affairs when the programme was taken up?
(3) What assumptions were made and on what basis?
(4) How was the quantum of thrust of inputs determined to achieve the necessary effect? In other words,
(1) What was the projected cost to social change ratio?
(2) What internal monitoring machinery and methodology was provided?
(3) Was any internal evaluation made, and if so, were any policy changes made?
(4) What are the other linked programmes which could affect the effectiveness of the programme to be audited?
(5) How are those programmes progressing?
On all these questions, social auditor should gather the necessary information and literature before he ever sets out to do his audit. Occasionally some voluntary agencies or academic institutions
study the impact of a programme. For their own reasons they do so over areas much smaller than those which the social auditor has to cover. Nevertheless, their findings are of value and the social auditor should obtain access to their findings.
Much has been said and written about the use of social indicators. There are in fact few such indicators and these have been developed by academic institutions doing research in a very narrow area and in highly artificial environmental models. Or else, these have been developed by industrially advanced countries. It is necessary therefore that before any use is made of the so called social indicators, their relevance to the context of the programme audited has to be determined or, if it is at all possible, they should be appropriately modified. Excessive reliance on social indicators can lead to an accountant’s measurement of the state of affairs rather than an intelligent auditor’s evaluation. It should also be remembered that social welfare programmes are not aimed at achieving absolute standards but at introducing social changes at predetermined cost and effort. If a programme includes within itself the means for an assessment of such achievement and details the quantum of change expected in relation to the quantum of thrust given, then this in itself will give the frame of reference for social audit.
Constitutional and statutory provisions place a severe restraint in many countries on the social auditor approaching the beneficiaries of a social welfare programme and making his own measurement of the impact of the programme. But where this direct method is available to him, he should work out in advance a detailed questionnaire and determine the analytical and statistical methods he will adopt to reach necessary conclusions.
Where such access to the beneficiaries is not available, social audit can none the less be performed, at least to some useful extent, by means of comparisons in space and time. Performance comparison of, a programme can be made at the same time in several geographical areas, or in a country such as India, in the several states. Likewise, the impact of the programme in the same area from year to year can be made. Such an audit, while not wholly as satisfactory as what can be done if access to beneficiaries is available, will none the less give sufficient indication of the satisfactory or unsatisfactory progress of the programme.