DSWD funds ‘not really poor’ families – COA

Rappler.com
An audit report finds that one in 10 beneficiaries of government's poverty reduction program actually owns a big concrete house or has regular income

MANILA, Philippines – Close to 10% of the government’s Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program beneficiaries are not “really poor” and therefore undeserving of assistance.

This was among the results of a random survey conducted by the Commission on Audit among CCT beneficiaries in Regions 3 (Central Luzon), 4 (Calabarzon and Mimaropa), 5 (Bicol), and the National Capital Region.

The CCTs or the Pantawid ng Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) is a poverty reduction strategy initiated in 2008 to provide cash grants to extremely poor households. It is being implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) as lead agency.

The CCT offers social assistance in the form of cash grants to families that comply with conditions on health and education. Among these conditions are pregnant women availing of pre- and post-natal care, children 6-14 years of age enrolling in elementary or high school classes and attending at least 85% of the time.

Special teams deployed by the COA to verify the 2011 accomplishment report submitted by the DSWD were tasked to validate the following:

  • actual existence of beneficiaries
  • eligibility of the beneficiaries
  • correctness of the grants received by the beneficiaries
  • compliance by the beneficiaries with the conditionalities of the program

They found that 9.52% or about 1 in 10 households sampled were not really qualified.

The COA special teams inspected the types of construction materials used for the living quarters of listed families, their toilet facilities, power supply, water supply, appliances and furniture.

They also determined whether the beneficiaries owned their house or were only leasing it, and whether or not relatives are working abroad. They likewise probed any type of disability among members of the family.

Questionable areas

Among the areas with doubtful CCT beneficiaries are Baguio City, Abra, Apayao, Batangas and Iloilo. Some were found to own big concrete houses, and many had a household member with a regular job enjoying steady income.

Several others were found to own sizeable farms that produce rice, corn and other crops, while others had a family member employed as a police officer, barangay official, public school teacher or staff in the city or municipal hall.

What was worrisome to state auditors was the failure of the DSWD to validate its list of beneficiaries, despite repeated assurances they would do so to weed out unqualified households.

“These not extremely poor beneficiaries have benefited from the Program for approximately two years now and no action has been made to delist them. There are 4,196,456 identified poor (households) but only 2,345,639 or 55.9 percent were selected beneficiaries of the program,” COA pointed out in its report.

It stressed that the errors COA pointed out inclusion of unqualified beneficiaries in 2010 and 2011 is not only “unfair” to the 1.85 million needy families who were not covered by the 4Ps program but could likewise be considered “improper utilization of government resources.”’

Dinky’s frustration

In an earlier interview, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman admitted that one of the sources of her frustrations is the inability of DSWD to be more rigorous.

“That’s my campaign now. The rigor and the vigor, as I say. Because, [my colleagues also get tired]. I’m trying to find ways to invigorate them,” Soliman told Rappler.

“For every mistake we make, either in encoding or in the update or in the compliance verification system, that’s a child who is not given what should be given,” Soliman stressed.

In a statement, the DSWD said that COA’s findings on problems relating to the identification of CCT beneficiaries are addressed by the Pantawid Pamilya National Program Monitoring Office (NPMO)-Grievance Redress System (GRS), as well as the complaints desks set up during the assemblies of the beneficiaries. These monitoring and grievance mechanisms accept complaints from excluded or delisted beneficiaries and the public.

The DSWD also said it is conducting re-assessment and validation surveys “to correct inclusion and exclusion errors in the identification of beneficiaries.”

Under the grievance mechanisms, at least 47,878 households have already been delisted from the program as of October 2012 because of the following reasons:

  • Voluntarily waived from the program
  • Validated to have engaged in fraudulent acts
  • Validated as inclusion errors
  • Found to have been ineligible for the program due to regular income/financial capacity

Doubtful validity

The COA report listed a total of 575,726 households, of which 54,809 (representing 9.52%) were of doubtful validity:

The problem is magnified if the same results are calculated against the nationwide total of 2,345,639 families covered by the 4Ps cash assistance in 2011.

COA admitted however that because of constraints, it is not easy to confirm findings. “The team resorted to visitation of only a handful of beneficiaries in selected areas to validate the observable variables. Due to huge number of beneficiaries and limited COA personnel, the team was able to validate few samples only,” it admitted in the report.

Also significant is the finding of the COA team that the inconsistency in CCT coverage among supposedly poor families has created friction in some communities.

“There are households who were not included in the program although they are also poor, thus they envy beneficiaries whom they consider not eligible but otherwise selected under the program. Had the criteria on selection of beneficiaries been very clear, envy and even divisiveness among the people in the 4Ps areas could (have been) avoided,” the report noted.

Soliman said DSWD is in the process of addressing problems in CCT mechanisms for beneficiaries updating, compliance verification, and the grievance regress system. 

The department said it is already reviewing and revalidating families that the audit team has found to be unqualified.

Expanded program

Based on DSWD data as of November 2012, the total number of households registered as CCT beneficiaries has reached 3,105,391. Of the total number, 3,078,774 are covered by the regular program, while 6,625 and 19,992 are covered by Modified Conditional Cash Transfer (MCCT) and Extended Conditional Cash Transfer (ECCT), respectively. 

DSWD recently expanded the CCT program to include street families and indigenous peoples.

“We have a targeted approach to reach them because the National Household Targeting System did the survey to households that had a dwelling place, which automatically prevents the street families to be a part of it and yet we know that they are the poorest and then the indigenous people,” Soliman explained. 

Soliman explained that the inaccessibility of indigenous communities, refusal of indigenous peoples to be surveyed, and the fear of enumerators to go to remote areas were the reasons why the sector was not included in the initial CCT coverage.

The CCT program is being implemented in 17 regions across the country covering 79 provinces, 138 cities, 1,272 municipalities and 33,413 barangays. – Rappler.com/With reports from Voltaire Tupaz