Planact has recently been part of the organisations to form a Social Audit Network in South Africa. The Colloquium was a space to discuss the importance of citizen based monitoring processes with a specific focus on social audits with a range of stakeholders from government, civil society and academia.

Planact has conducted a social audit in Spring Valley this year and there are more communities that will be doing social audits.

Social Audit Background:
A social audit is a community-led process of reviewing of crucial documents to determine whether the public expenditure and service delivery outcomes reported by the government really reflect the public money spent and the services received by the community. Members of the community collectively participate in a process of verifying government (or private company) documents by comparing them with the realities on the ground and the experiences of the community.

In 2013, Cabinet approved the Framework for Strengthening Citizen-Government Partnerships for Monitoring Frontline Service Delivery. This is an initiative that is now led by the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME). The framework, in answering why citizen based monitoring is needed, says the following:

“The experiences of citizens – the intended beneficiaries of government services – are a critical component of measuring the performance of government and for the delivery of appropriate and quality services. Currently, the emphasis of government’s monitoring is mainly focused on internal government processes and the voice of the citizen is largely absent. This is a risk as the picture is not complete. It is therefore necessary to support the uptake of systematic ways to bring the experiences of citizens into monitoring of services. CBM does not duplicate or replace existing public participation structures or processes, but rather offers the potential to strengthen the monitoring capacity of these, providing tools and methodologies to strengthen public participation in monitoring. Citizen based monitoring activities may also take place outside of existing public participation structures

Social audits are one of the instruments listed in this framework. The SAN is a network of organisations that support the use and development of social audits in South Africa. The members of the SAN are Afesis-Corplan, Equal Education, Ndifuna Ukwazi, Planact and the Social Justice Coalition (SJC). The Social Audit Network is currently hosted at the SJC with support from the International Budget Partnership (IBP). The first social audit in South Africa was conducted by the Social Justice Coalition with community members of Khayelitsha in 2013. This was the first of many social audits in South Africa by different civil society organisations such as Planact in the Emalahleni Municipality in Mpumalanga, Equal Education in Gauteng, Ndifuna Ukwazi in the City of Cape Town, Western Cape and Afesis-Corplan in the Buffalo City Municipality in the Eastern Cape.