Our Money, Our Account

Date: Thursday, May 28, 2015

Author: Felix Maia

“Two or three days ago, I was visiting our border (with Indonesia), and I saw three big structures standing there. One is a greenhouse that would serve as a treatment place for plants that would be imported or exported. One facility would also serve as a treatment place for livestock before being imported and exported. They had all been constructed in 2011 and in 2012 but have been left unused. When I asked how much the facility cost, they (customs officers) said…..it was more than a Million dollars”.

Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, Dr. Rui Maria de Araujo. Photo: Christina Yinnakis

This statement by His Excellency the Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, Dr. Rui Maria de Araujo, during his speech to formally open the National Conference on Social Auditing on 25 May 2015, highlighted a need for transparency and accountability in the Government’s spending that impacts people’s lives. With this in mind, he reiterated the tremendous need to have social audit implemented in Timor-Leste. The National Conference was organized by FONGTIL in partnership with Office of Prime Minister and with support from Office of President of the Republic.

The aim of the Social Audit will be to ensure that all citizens have access to information that is accurate and up-to-date, to guarantee that the development process is transparent, efficient, involves public participation. Social audit is a platform for participatory governance and presents the power of a collective platform for good governance.

Nikhil Dey from Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (an organization, India) Photot: Christina Yinnakis

Having worked on gender responsive planning and budgeting over the years in Timor-Leste, UN Women is investing also in efforts on social accountability. The resource persons of the National Conference on Social Auditing are Mr. Nikhil Dey of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan , a grassroots organization from India, and Ms. Yamini Mishra from UN Women. Their continued presence throughout the conference and the auditing process will be supported by the UN Women.

“Who does the social auditing?”

His Excellency Prime Minister Araujo stated the important role that Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) play in the Social Auditing process, highlighting that it provides an opportunities for entities, including Government bodies, to convene and provide support to each other by sharing information, data, and facts, on the quality of services provided by the Government.

“Without rights to information, social audit will not work” begins Mr. Nikhil Dey adding that social audit is a platform for participatory governance and presents the power of a collective platform for good governance. Social audit is not limited to auditing the money but importantly how the money is spent and for whom: quality, performance, choice. On the question of who does social audit, Mr Dey emphatically says, “Social audit can only be done by the people themselves, the citizens of Timor-Leste” with facilitation from civil society organizations. He added that social audit is the responsibility of the Government to ensure efficiency and accountability.

Ms. Mishra reminded the audience that “…we cannot assume women’s “automatic” inclusion in the process…we need two things: to work actively towards women’s inclusion in accountability seeking processes; and using women’s human rights as a key standard against which quality, performance and choice are assessed.”

“Ami ni osan, Ami nia konta” (Our money, our account)

The keynote speakers and Prime Minister showing respect national anthem of Timor-Leste. Photo: Christina Yinnakis

These are four simple words that summarize the concept of Social Audit: Our money, Our account (Ami nia osan, Ami nia konta). People have the undeniable right to know who decides how much is spent and on what.