Sunday, 28 November, 2021

Social Safety Net Allowances: 87,000 recipients found fake

Social Safety Net Allowances: 87,000 recipients found fake

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#Tk 3.41bn unspent money returned to state coffer

#Number of beneficiaries declines to 87.63 lakh from 88.50 lakh after introduction of digital system

A big amount of Tk 3.41 billion allocated for social safety net schemes remained unspent in 2019-20 fiscal year after the detection of some 87,000 fake and missing recipients of government allowances through digital technology.

Social welfare ministry has recently returned the unused amount to finance ministry. It used digital technology -- Management Information System (MIS) -- to find out loopholes in the list of beneficiaries, official sources said.

The government’s move to use the digital technology came following widespread allegations with regard to the number of beneficiaries of the social safety net schemes. 

“The initiative to distribute social security allowances digitally was taken after the Prime Minister instructed for it. With this, the chain of middlemen surrounding the government allowances has been destroyed,” State Minister for Social Welfare Ashraf Ali Khan said.

Earlier, the government allowances used to be distributed manually according to the list of recipients prepared by public representatives, including union parishad chairmen and members. 

There were also allegations of errors and nepotism in the list. Even, allowances were allegedly withdrawn in the names of dead people or beneficiaries with multiple entries or without any existence at all.

Prior to the introduction of MIS, there were 88.50 lakh aged, widowed or deserted women and insolvent handicapped allowance recipients in the country. It came down to 87.63 lakh after putting in place the digital system, social welfare ministry data showed.

“There were errors and negligence in the process of preparing the list of beneficiaries by the UP members. All these have stopped after introduction of the digital system,” Ashraf said, adding: “Now, only real beneficiaries are getting the allowances. So, the unspent money has been returned. ”

In 2019-20 fiscal year, Tk 29.40 billion was set aside as old-age allowance, but finally Tk 29.31 billion could be spent. Similarly, money remained unspent in other segments of allowances as well, according to a report of social welfare ministry. 

The issue of fake beneficiaries surfaced following the introduction of MIS.

Later, the Department of Social Services gave an explanation for this, saying data on 334,393 beneficiaries could not be found at the outset of money distribution through mobile banking system.

Later, around 2.50 lakh beneficiaries’ names were replaced in line with the government’s social security schemes implementation policy, it added.

The latest figure suggests that 87,000 recipients are still missing from the list, but money had been withdrawn against their names earlier.

The government pays Tk 500 per head as old age and widow allowance while Tk 750 for insolvent people with disabilities and from Tk 750 to Tk 1,300 stipend to students with disabilities.

A mid-term review of the government’s National Social Security Strategy (NSSS) says nearly 46 percent people are getting social safety allowances without being eligible for those.

It has found that 59 percent of the old-age allowance recipients did not fulfill the conditions tagged with it, while 23 percent recipients of widow and deserted women allowance are not real.

In a separate study, Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has found that the beneficiaries had to spend Tk 100 to Tk 200 for false enrolment in the database of the Department of Social Services.

Apart from false and missing recipients, a portion of the allocated money could not be spent as is has not been possible to execute some programmes due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A World Bank study suggests that Bangladesh can cut poverty rate by one percentage point more if it can implement its social security schemes properly.