World Bank defines social accountability
as an approach towards building accountability that relies on civic engagement, i.e., in which it is ordinary citizens and/or civil society organizations who participate directly or indirectly in exacting accountability. It involves the stakeholders like citizens, civil society
, NGOs and others at various levels who engage in monitoring or evaluating a particular project, programme or policy, share control over the resources, provide feedback and take corrective actions when needed. Thus it mobilizes citizens at the local level to demand better services thus making the services more effective and economic as well. It brings in good governance while giving the community a sense of participation, ownership and empowerment.
Government business is so wide and complex that a check is needed upon its powers and activities. Accountability ensures actions and decisions taken by public officials are subject to oversight so as to guarantee that government initiatives meet their stated objectives and respond to the needs of the community they are meant to be benefiting, thereby contributing to better governance and poverty reduction. This check is provided by various accountability mechanisms. Traditional accountability mechanisms include legislative control, administrative control, judicial remedies, departmental hierarchies, vigilance mechanisms etc. However, such checks are generally of post hoc nature and less effective at the cutting edge level. This impacts the service delivery quality.
Some examples of social accountability as implemented in various places include:
- Participatory Planning and Policy Formulation (Kerala, Brazil, Bangladesh);
- Participatory Budget Analysis (Gujarat);
- Participatory Expenditure Tracking System (Uganda, Delhi, Rajasthan);
- Citizens’ Surveys/Citizen Report Cards (Bangalore, Maharashtra, Ukraine, Philippines, Pakistan);
- Citizen Charters (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka); and
- Community Scorecards (Malawi, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh)
It has been well established that social accountability mechanisms can contribute to improved governance, accelerate development, and create effectiveness through better service delivery and empowerment. In addition to these methods and tools, many more exist such as campaigns for electoral reforms, public interest litigation, social audits, independent evaluation and so forth. At state level often janta durbar and mohalla sabha are organized to involve citizens more actively.