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Banks hold key to end fraud in elders’ cash

WORK LIFE
By JUDY NGUGI AND DENNIS RASTO, KNA | April 29th 2019
Labour and Social Protection Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani. (PHOTO: Standard)

NAIROBI, KENYA: Financial institutions have been urged to assist the government in vetting afresh beneficiaries of Older Persons Cash Transfer (OPCT) programmes.

The Nakuru County Assistant Commissioner (AC), Mary Mwangi observed that a payment plan, dubbed Choice Model that enabled beneficiaries of the programme to receive their stipend through bank accounts and mobile phones was prone to abuse by impostors.

Mwangi observed that though the account opening was an electronic exercise that captured biometric features, banks had issued the beneficiaries with Automated Teller Machine (ATM) cards that could be misused.

“The new system is efficient as it enables beneficiaries of the programme to receive their stipend through bank accounts a departure from the past when the recipients picked up the cash handouts from banks. Financial institutions need to periodically deactivate all the Personal Identification Numbers (PINS) on ATMS held by beneficiaries of the cash transfer programmes.

This will compel account holders to present themselves for physical verification and weed out those who are dead and whose proceeds are being pocketed by other parties,” said Mugo.

Speaking in Nakuru during the commencement of the second phase migration of cash transfer to benefi ciaries within the devolved unit Thursday, the administrator noted that a significant proportion of those who accessed the accounts through PINS were not the actual beneficiaries.

“Banks should work closely with the Department of Social Protection and chiefs in cleaning up the payroll of dead beneficiaries and stopping undeserving cases from accessing the funds through ATMs and mobile phones,” she said.

Those targeted in the new choice model are benefi ciaries of the Orphans and Vulnerable Children programme, Older Persons Cash Transfer programme and Persons with Severe Disabilities Cash transfer programme.

Each of the benefi ciaries was given a chance to open accounts in any of the four selected banks, including Kenya Commercial, Equity, Cooperative, and Post banks.

The banks were expected to put in place mechanisms for delivering payments of the Inua Jamii stipend to the beneficiaries across the country.

The AC also called on financial institutions to work out structures where the funds are disbursed in bits to beneficiaries to avoid theft and wastages.

“Most of these elderly people lose the money to unscrupulous people when it is paid in lump sum. Banks should work out a schedule on the minimum amount that should be withdrawn at any given time. This should be spread out within a three month’s period,” she observed.

Meanwhile, the Social Protection Department, which is mandated to oversee implementation of the enhanced Older Persons Cash Transfer (OPCT), says the scheme currently covers 523,000 people.

The bi-monthly stipend is intended to ease the suffering of the senior citizens through enhancing their purchasing power, thus reducing poverty levels.

The County Director of Social Protection, Agnes Oriri said among the challenges faced in the first phase was a mismatch of names and features that could not be captured on biometrics.

However, she said that the programme was a success as it had brought on board 6,500 beneficiaries.

“The new system ensures that only genuine beneficiaries receive the cash. Authentication for old people can be through their finger prints. All beneficiaries can access their funds through their mobile phones,” she said.

The World Health Organization report of 2015 estimates life expectancy in Kenya at 63 years. When the cash transfer programme for those aged above 65 was introduced in 2012.

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