Transparency in cash transfer schemes, By Peter Stanley

The National Cash Transfer Programme was introduced by the Federal Government in 2016 in partnership with the World Bank to fortify social safety nets and establish a social protection system in Nigeria in line with the Buhari Administration’s Social Investment agenda of eradicating poverty and promoting shared prosperity amongst the citizens.  A monthly stipend of N5,000 is paid to the poorest and most vulnerable Nigerian households, mostly in rural communities under the Programme whose objectives include:
Improved Household consumption, improved economy of the community, increased utilization of health and nutrition services,Improved school enrolment and attendance, improved environmental sanitation and management.
Others are improved finance and asset acquisition to ultimately enhance financial and economic inclusion as well as beneficiary engagement in sustainable livelihood.
Reports indicate that by December 2020, the programme operated in 33 states of the country and the FCT and a total of 1,414,983 beneficiaries with 7,068,629 individual household member beneficiaries were enrolled, covering 487 Local Government Areas, 4,716 Wards and 37,628 Communities. All States are expected to be covered by March 2021.
The Programme has a well defined implementation structure with an electronic base beneficiary enrolment system that focuses on the Poor and Vulnerable Households (PVHHs) sourced from the National Social Register.
The PVHHs are identified through a combination of geographic and community based targeting mechanisms conducted by the various State Operating and Coordinating Units (SOCU) under the supervision and guidance of the National Social Safety Net Co-ordination Office (NASSCO). The Community Based Targeting (CBT) mechanism is used for the targeting process.
The database of Poor and Vulnerable Households (PVHHs) is generated at the state level and domiciled at State Ministries of Planning and is accessible through the National Social Safety Net Project (NASSP)
All 3 grant based programmes are within budgetary provisions and are processed electronically as follows: Rapid Transfer Register (RRR)- This is provided for under the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP), Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) is funded from the Abacha restituted funds and the World Bank facility while the Cash Grant to Rural Women (CGRW) is a one-off cash grant provided for in the 2020 Appropriation Act.
Electronic disbursement is done where infrastructural capacity for banking and telecom is available since the targeted beneficiaries of the CCT are the poorest of the poor living in remote rural areas.
When the programmevcommenced in September 2016, Memoranda of Understanding were signed between the FG and all states. However because some states committed to the programme later, they lagged behind states that joined immediately in the generation of the State Social Register of Poor and Vulnerable Households.
The engagement of Payment Service Providers (PSPs) is carried out through a National Competitive Bidding (NCB) process that is within the World Bank Peer Review Mechanism threshold for transparency which is not in doubt.
The CCT Programme also provides capacity building, coaching and mentoring to beneficiaries on various topics including hygiene, girl child education and savings. Formation of co- and savings are voluntary and managed by the beneficiaries with no involvement by the Programme. Currently, State Social Registers have been generated across all the states, while the CCT is being implemented in all 36 states with only Borno, Ebonyi and Ogun states yet to commence payments.
It is noteworthy that many goodwill messages and statements of gratitude have been received by the Humanitarian Affairs ministry from State Governments on the programme and several success stories  and testimonies abound on how the Programme is impacting the lives of the beneficiaries as well as poor and vulnerable Nigerians with a positive effect on their communities as well.
The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development  Saadiya Umar Faruk (Mrs) has expressed determination to ensure successful implementation of the administration’s Social Investment Programmes aimed at lifting 100 million Nigerians out of Poverty by year 2030.
Peter Stanley is a freelance writer in Abuja