Social audit is a form of citizen participation that focuses on government performance and accountability. It is qualitatively different from other forms of audit and citizen participation, whose main purpose is to express citizen’s voice and promote a more inclusive government, such as public demonstrations, advocacy and lobbying and/or public hearing initiatives, to name just a few.
The central objective of a social audit is to monitor, track, analyze, and evaluate government performance, thus making public officials accountable for their actions and decisions. As an evaluation of government performance, a social audit exercise can be considered a mechanism of social oversight: that is, the control that citizens can exert on their government officials to ensure that they act transparently, responsibly and effectively.
Social auditing plays various roles. Social audit processes can help focus on bad government performance and/or behaviour and also by denouncing corrupt public officials or disseminating information about a public officials’ asset declaration before an election. A social audit can also significantly contribute to inform the government about the potential impact and consequences of public policies. Moreover, a social audit can also play a critical role in keeping the community informed about government policies and actions and in articulating citizens’ demands and needs that might not be otherwise transmitted through more regular channels, such as elections.
In short, social audit activities can help measure public policy consistency between promises and actual results. Verifying consistency between plans/programs/policies and actual results can lead to improvements in many governance areas, and can translate into economic and social benefits. It can also play a critical role as an anticorruption tool in preventing corrupt practices and/or in providing evidence to expose wrongdoings. Ultimately, social audit paves the way to strengthen trust and confidence in the democratic governance process.