Social Audits

Social audits make organizations more accountable for the social objectives they declare. Calling an audit “social” does not mean that costs and finance are not examined – the central concern of a social audit is how resources are used for social objectives, including how resources can be better mobilized to meet those objectives. But even a thoroughly competent and honest financial audit may reveal very little about the results of the programme being audited. Only reliable evidence that links a programme’s impact and coverage to its costs can serve the needs of managers who seek to manage on the basis of results. Nor can social accountability be achieved by looking only at internal records of performance, however well and honestly these are kept. A social audit must include the experience of the people the organization is intended to serve.

The term “social audit” has been applied to many CIET projects. For an explanation of the term as used by CIET see the document “The Social Audit: Fostering Accountability to Local Constituencies” first published on line in and available from the Library.

Notable among CIET social audits are the following:

Baltic States – In 2002, with the support of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), CIET surveyed attitudes and experiences of unofficial payments in the health care and licencing sectors of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

BoliviaAt the request of the Vice-President, some 33,000 people,1,600 businesses and hundreds of public servants were consulted on corruption.

Bosnia The World Bank cash assistance programme was evaluated to estimate system leakage, targeting and programme misses.

Bangladesh Over 125,000 people, mostly women, from 250 communities gave evidence on their use and perceptions of health and family planning services as part of the evaluation of the country’s Health and Population Sector Programme.

Costa Rica – A 1996 social audit of human rights in the Canton of Upala examined the treatment of immigrants in this Canton on the border with Nicaragua. It was the result of collaboration among United Nations agencies and the office of the Costa Rican Human Rights Ombudsman (Defensoría de los Habitantes)

Mali An enquiry into the how people view availability and quality of public services identified corruption affecting women and men.

Nicaragua CIET began tracking corruption in public services in Nicaragua in 1995. Between 1998 and 2009 successive social audits measured progress in the governments anti-corruption struggle.  In 1999-2001 CIET carried out a social audit of civil society’s response to the devastation of hurricane “Mitch.”

Nigeria -Between 2008 and 2014 in two Nigerian states, Bauchi and Cross River, CIET is helping to establish a new health information and planning system, one based on health outcomes rather than service provision. 

Pakistan – An audit of the gender gap in primary education revealed teachers demanding unofficial charges from students. A social audit on abuse against women sought to identify ways in which local action could improve the situation of women. A social audit on people’s responses to the devolution of public services is  tracking devolution’s impact at local levels over a five-year period.

South Africa, Gauteng – The role of corruption in the prosecution and conviction of rape cases set the stage for a much broader-based programme to prevent sexual violence.

South Africa, Wild Coast Unofficial charges for health care and other public services were a major factor in the failure of small and micro-enterprises to accumulate sufficient wealth for survival.

TanzaniaThe Tanzanian Presidential Commission on Corruption requested a social audit as part of its anti-corruption strategy. It documented corruption in the police, revenue and land sectors.

UgandaAudits of the health and agriculture sectors were done in 1995. The 1998 national integrity survey included the experience of nearly 100,000 people and 1,500 civil servants, producing district-level integrity indicators on the police, judiciary, health, education and local administration.

CIET has published a special supplement entitled Social audit: building the community voice into health service delivery and planning in BMC Health Services Research, volume 11, supplement 2. See: