Simply put this is a process where official works are subjected to an yearly auditing by the citizens. Before you want to dismiss this as one of those “idealistic” processes which on paper looks good but never work in reality, let me say, please read along and at the end of you draw your own conclusion.
Scope: Lets keep things simple and let’s take a single constituency where you want to solve this problem. Every constituency is divided into municipalities and then into wards and every ward is divided into colonies (at least in an urban setting). There is a parallel system even for the rural setting. But let’s say this is an urban constituency. So our scope is a urban setting which has wards which is further divided into colonies.
What to audit?
- Every municipality and every ward, every constituency (MLA and MP) has dedicated budget allocated for spending within their own jurisdiction. This could be the starting point.
- MLA’s or MP’s put forward their election manifestos and they must be held accountable for that.
- Budget allocations
- Anything else that we may deem necessary
What about ministries that operate at either state and central level?
Just like how there is a set of personnel for every ministry, there can be an citizen audit team that can coexist. How this body is elected is a different conversation, but for now, let’s assume that this body will be responsible for the audit.
Official Records: Agreed that not all the details are available in the digital format but there is still plenty of government data that’s digital. Or if there is no official data for the constituency in scope then we can file RTIs to solicit this information.
Once this information is made available, the citizen audit team can help digitize this as well.
Yearly Audit: Today, there is an audit system, even to monitor the progress of a kindergartener. So to work out a similar audit system for the current scope that is the ward, municipality, district, constituency is a matter of intent than a matter of possibility.
At this audit, the citizen team will present the audit findings to the responsible authority in the presence of media to make this process more transparent and accountable. This will ensure the person in charge has a chance to make amendments where necessary to do the needful before the official term of office expires.
Where do we get the human resources to take up this work?
1) There is a great deal of expertise and knowledge base that is waiting to exploited with our senior citizens who belong to the pool of just retired.
2) Under graduates, Graduates and Post Graduates can help out as part of their yearly commitment to their community.
Obviously this is a concept but once we take a real use case or a real constituency or a district or a ward, this can be further refined and improved.
What about funding?
Obviously the government will not be paying the citizens so they can be audited, they should be, but we are not quite there yet. Until that happens (until we force this to happen), such initiatives could be funded by crowd sourcing. In the meanwhile though, we start small, something more manageble at an individual level before we start thinking about funding.
But we have CAG and other systems in place?
Well they are but the audits happen after the fact, after they end their term. So even if the audit were to find misappropriations, there is hardly anything to do hold them to their words and more importantly their deeds.
This looks like a lot of work, and that is true. Ther is some work involved, but democracy comes with a cost and we the citizens should be willing to pay this cost to enjoy its benefits. And one thing is for sure we don’t ask they don’t tell and there is no need for them to tell if we don’t ask.