DSWD: Cash transfer program enjoys high compliance

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A PROGRAM that gives poor families money in exchange for keeping their children in school is enjoying high compliance among more than 1.6 million beneficiary households, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said Tuesday.

DSWD Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman told members of the Senate Oversight Committee on Public Expenditures that the Conditional Cash Transfer program has recorded close to full compliance from beneficiaries.

She said that 96 percent of beneficiaries bring their children below five years to monthly checkups at government health centers, another condition of the program. Around 95.4 percent of families with young children have been bringing them to day care centers, while compliance among households with elementary-school age children is at 96.8 percent.


Under the program, families must make sure their children up to five years old receive regular preventive health check-ups and vaccines. Those with children between three and five years old should have these children attend pre-school classes at least 85 percent of the time, while families with children from 6 to 14 years old should enroll them in public schools and make sure they attend 85 percent of their classes.

In exchange, a family with three children will get P300 per child for each month while their mother gets an extra P500. The subsidies are given every two months through a Land Bank of the Philippines cash card, Soliman added.

The program is monitored by parent-leaders, or representatives of each
group of 25 families. These parent-leaders coordinate with local government units, which then coordinate with the head office in Manila. Failure to comply with conditions for more than three months will mean being cut from the program, Soliman said.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said however that it is too early
to call the program a success.

"We will see in the period of one year. We will be able to check when we go back (during budget hearings), because the program started in 2008. They should be able to give us an update about the improvement as a result of the program," he said.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, who attended the hearing, said the DSWD should also record improvements in infant mortality, birth weight, and nutrition among beneficiaries. Otherwise, he said, they would just be relying on "anecdotes."

"So I would like to know, after they have visited health centers, has infant mortality gone down? After 96 percent of those covered or funded have sent their children to school, has it improved the ability of these kids to read and write?" Senator Franklin Drilon, committee chairman, said.

Soliman said that data will be collected in November by Social Weather Stations.

The CCT, a component of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino program (4Ps) has already reached 75 of the country's 138 cities. The DSWD has also registered beneficiaries in 950 of 1,400 municipalities, she added.

This meant that P4.127 billion of 17 billion allocated for cash grants for education and health expenses has already been given out, she said.

She said that most of the beneficiaries are in Mindanao, where the incidence of poverty is higher. Among those recipients, around 384,815 are indigenous peoples and 89,000 are families with at least one member having a disability.

Soliman added that the program will also try to find jobs for CCT beneficiaries for when their subsidies expire five years after registration. She said that this year, 20 percent of the labor for road repair projects of the Public Works department will come from beneficiary families.

"This is to open up the job market for them when they leave the program," Soliman told Sun.Star after the hearing. She added that beneficiary families will also be tapped for replanting projects of the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources.

'Ghost' beneficiaries

The Social Welfare secretary said the department has also weeded around 155,000 spurious names from its list of beneficiaries.

She said that some were selected as beneficiaries despite having jobs.

She said the DSWD has set up a grievance redress system to handle complaints of "inclusion errors." Soliman said that compared to "close to 2 million" already registered, the 155,000 erroneous names was small.

The DSWD has also had "exclusion errors," she said, or qualified beneficiaries not making it to the list because their houses were too far away or were excluded because of local politics.

She said the same grievance redress system also handles those cases.

Soliman also said that the CCT had to be suspended in three town in Maguindanao after it was found that the beneficiary list had been padded and that the cash cards were being hoarded. She said the suspension has been lifted and the list has been "corrected already."

She said however, that the P17 billion allocated for cash grants this year will not be enough because registration of a batch of beneficiaries expected to be finished by June was done by February.

"The expectation (from beneficiaries) was that they would be given already," she said, adding the advanced registration will mean a shortfall of P2 billion.

She said the DSWD may have to ask Congress for a supplementary budget or slow down registration of around 1.3 million more CCT beneficiaries
for this year.

Senator Franklin Drilon, also chairman of the Senate finance committee, said getting more money would be a "big problem."

"We haven't discussed where the money will come from, but it's not easy to find (an extra) P2 billion in our budget," Drilon, who sponsored the General Appropriations Act of 2011 at the Senate, said.

He advised the DSWD against slowing down registration, however, since "the expectations (for the program) might be very high." He said it would be better for the department to stick to its original program.

Drilon said the hearing is just one of many that will check government spending. He said the hearings will be a run-up to deliberations on the national budget for 2012.

The committee will have the Department of Health give an update on its expenditures next.(Sunnex)

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