INDIA: Cash for Poor to Dilute Power of Oligarchs (Bloomberg)

IUndian central bank Governor Raghuram Rajan urged the government to directly transfer cash to the poor instead of offering public services, saying the money would liberate millions from corrupt middlemen and politicians.

Cash would empower the poor to choose where to buy goods, providing an alternative to government-run monopolies and creating competition in the private sector, Rajan said in a speech in Mumbai yesterday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plan to bring bank accounts to the poor — set to be unveiled this week — would facilitate the transfers, Rajan said.

Nigeria: The ghost worker numbers in this piece are shocking

Boyo: Ghost workers and indulgent exorcists (The Guardian – Nigeria)

♦ A 2010 staff audit of the Nigeria Police Force revealed over 100,000 ghost police officers out of 330,000 officially registered policemen.

♦ In 2011, the Rivers State Universal Basic Education Board reported losses of N2.4 billion (approx $26 million) annually to 1,477 ghost workers

♦ In the same month, after conducting a biometric audit, The National Identity Management Commission uncovered 4,000 ghost workers out of about 10,300 employees on its payroll.

♦ The Ekiti State government loses over N3 billion annually to ghost workers out of a projected annual budget of N80 billion.

There are many more examples at the link.

The workers are ghosts. The money is real.

It’s too bad ghost workers don’t earn ghost money.

Nigeria: Taming the Ghost Workers (Indepth Africa)

The ghost workers were detected through the biometric initiative undertaken by the Federal Government. Okonjo-Iweala declared that it was shocking that the Federal Government had survived it this far considering the level of graft on the public payroll. During the last exercise, FG uncovers 46,821 ghost workers!

Accordingly, the minister said the biometric exercise would be pursued vigorously in the coming days with a view to plugging loopholes and to save funds for the government to deploy in critical areas of need.

N118.9billion was saved.

XE Currency Converter

If that’s not some serious RoI, somebody has a lot of explaining to do.

Libya ponders national ID as an instrument of economic development

Libya takes steps to fight corruption (Foreign Policy – Reg. req.)

Libya’s General National Congress (GNC) is debating the newly introduced transparency and anti-corruption bill which they expect to vote on in the next few weeks. The Libyan government, led by Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, is taking practical steps toward fighting corruption and improving transparency in public institutions, following alarming reports of rampant corruption and financial waste in the public sector. These steps are also driven by huge public demand for immediate anti-corruption measures and transparency in post-revolution Libya.

On February 7, the government announced the National Identification Numbers (NID) project. By giving each person a unique number, the government will be able make sure that transfers and payments are going to the right people and avoid manipulations to the system.

It’s hard to help people if you can’t identify them.

UID will be good for the poor

‘Aadhaar-based scheme can reduce corruption in PDS’ (The Hindu)

In a release, he said that kerosene distributed through PDS was one of the largest generators of black money in the country. He has quantified it at Rs. 25,000 crore a year. “This amount plays a crucial role during elections and is also the main reason for the lack of reforms in the public distribution system,” he claimed.

If corruption gets harder, somebody’s ox gets gored. It’s refreshing to see the argumentum ad hominem go the other way for a change.

Biometrics as engines of cultural change

The West African Examinations Council (WAEC) in Sierra Leone is adopting a new biometric system to reduce impersonation among test takers and also to help eliminate bureaucratic errors.

We’ve covered the return on investment (ROI) of biometric ID systems quite extensively and the decision makers at the WEAC obviously saw the ROI potential of adding a biometric check to the testing process. Something else we have talked about (and it’s one aspect of biometrics that is intensely interesting to development types) is the accountability biometric systems can help bring to organizations and the cultural changes better ID management allows for.

Sheriff Sapateh, Head of the WEAC National Office gets this part, too:

WAEC launches Biometric Registration system (Awoko h/t @Argus_Global)

The Head further noted that examination malpractice unlike HIV/AIDS has a cure, adding that in order to win the war against examination malpractice there must be a holistic effort by all stakeholders in the education sub-sector.

He said that to avert a total collapse of our education system, there is a need for an entrenchment of a culture of examination ethics which is the respect for the rules, regulations, expectations, codes of conduct and moral principles governing the conduct of assessment and evaluation system, not only in educational institutions but in all sectors of the economy.

Using better ID management techniques can help to develop and encourage a more ethical culture — one less hospitable to corruption. Managers who understand this and want to do something about it have an ally in biometric ID management systems.

Consequences of the Coriander kerfuffle?

300 errant UID agents blacklisted (DNA India h/t @M2SYS)

Following complaints about agents doing the rounds of Aadhaar enrolment centres seeking money from applicants, the state government and UniqueIdentification Authority of India (UIDAI) have blacklisted around 300 such errant operators in Mumbai.

“Around 300 operators have been blacklisted in Mumbai,” said Ajay Bhushan Pandey, Deputy Director General, UIDAI, adding that this had been done because of complaints regarding money being sought from applicants, proliferation of agents at centres, irregularities and quality issues.

Following such high-profile cases as giving vegetables ID’s (and them presumably charging the government for it), a purge of unscrupulous and/or ineffective UID enrollment agents has been a long time coming.

A scam involving shaking enrolees down would be far more difficult to detect using automated means than determining which agencies showed higher-than-average rates of submitting bogus enrollments, so I’m glad the UIDAI is willing and able to send actual agents to enrollment centers where there are reports of agents soliciting bribes.

India: Biometric system discovers ghost residents and diners in student dwellings

Biometric system in Karnataka hostels busts scam (DNA India)

Thanks to the installation of biometric machines at hostels run by the social welfare department, a scam involving officials of the department in collusion with contractors has been exposed.

The department, which had installed biometric systems (thumb impression devices) at 280 hostels in various parts of the state, found that only 35% of the students were actually staying in these hostels.

However, officials were found creating false bills for the supply of food items in nexus with contractors, claiming that all the students were residing in the hostels. The state government, waking up to the situation, has now decided to install biometric systems in all 4,144 hostels in the State.

More at the link.

India: We have a lift off

After initial hiccups, the government’s ambitious direct benefits transfer programme through a unique identification number kicked off smoothly today, though the number of transactions carried out by the banks on the first day remained low. About 2,000 beneficiaries were transferred an amount of Rs 35 lakh on the Aadhaar platform, but the figure is expected to go up tomorrow. The programme is aimed at covering two lakh beneficiaries.

Photo of UID taking off. Source: NASA

After several years of preparation and on-the-ground effort, the National Payments Corporation of India disbursed the first government payments directly to individuals using the UID (Aadhaar) platform. This is a big deal.

We’ve repeatedly used the “moon shot” metaphor here to describe the ID management projects India has been working on for the last several years.

The audio and video of UID won’t be as dramatic. The narrative won’t be as clear-cut. There won’t be a cathartic moment where a “one giant step” speech is appropriate. So, in this sense, UID falls short of the metaphor. [The audio of the Apollo 11 launch that inspired this post’s title is here (NASA.gov; 1 min.)]

But if the UID project succeeds it will have overcome daunting technical, logistical and managerial challenges to have a tangible effect on the material well being of hundreds of millions of people, awakening the rest of the developing world to new possibilities to simultaneously help the most vulnerable and reduce the corruption that keeps much of the world poor. Few government initiatives could boast of as much.

UID also reminds me of the great global efforts to eradicate small pox and polio in that they had to, quite literally, touch everyone.

Biometrics and ghost workers in Nigeria

Abia’s scourge of ghost workers (The Nation)

When Abia state governor Chief Theodore Orji introduced reforms in the civil service of the state which include promotion of workers due for promotion, approval of N21,000 as minimum wage, retiring those due, transferring of service of non-indigenes to their states of origin after due consultation with their home state, and insistence on biometric data capturing of all workers and pensioners in the state civil service, some cynics who believed in business as usual criticised the reforms severely.

Read the whole thing.

Ghana: Catholic Bishops commend efforts on voter registration including biometrics

Catholic Bishops Raise Alarm Over Corruption (Peace FM Online)

After the declaration of results the bishops urged all Ghanaians “to continue in the spirit of togetherness to join forces to build Mother Ghana.”

They commended the Chairman of the EC and his team for, as they stated, “their steadfastness and the preparations they have made for the upcoming elections. They have surmounted formidable challenges to make the biometric registration and voting a reality.”

This paragraph appears about half way through a longer article about what Catholic bishops in Ghana have to say about corruption.

UID & Corruption in India

Nilekani slams Kejriwal, says passing a law can’t solve the corruption problem (IBN Live)

Speaking to CNN-IBN Deputy Editor Sagarika Ghose, Nilekani said, “I m as much for fighting corruption as the next guy. But, I certainly don’t believe that by passing a law or putting more penalties on bureaucrats or creating more inspectors is going to solve the corruption problem. That’s absolutely the wrong prescription. Fixing delivery system is more important. Fight corruption by having a bunch of OB vans is not going to solve the problem.”

There’s a short video at the link. Sorry, I couldn’t embed it. I tried. I failed.

In a separate matter — i.e. the minister in the next article isn’t the person Nilekani “slams” above…

India minister denies theft rampant in $14-B food program (Business Mirror – Philippines)

India’s system of distributing food to the poor isn’t corrupt, according to Food Minister K.V. Thomas, who rejected findings by the World Bank, Supreme Court and news investigations that rampant theft is depriving as many as 160 million families of nourishment.

About 5 percent to 10 percent of the food meant for the poor is lost, and that is due to mismanagement, Thomas said in an interview at his office in New Delhi.

The World Bank pegged the figure at 58 percent, in a 2011 report based on government data, and blamed it on graft and wastage. A Supreme Court fact-finding commission declared in the past year that the distribution system in major states had failed in its mission.

India: West Bengal state adopts biometric ID for jobs program

Indian State Spends USD 18.5 mil on ICT in Welfare Scheme (Future Gov) 
ICT = Information and communications technology

On the 7th of September, the West Bengal state government in India confirmed a Rs. 103-crore (US$18.5 million) contract for end-to-end ICT services to streamline the e-governance applications of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) in West Bengal.

MGNREGS, the central government’s flagship social welfare programme, guarantees a minimum of 100 days of employment every year to adult members of rural households who are willing to perform public-service manual labour at minimum wage.

Increasing transparency and efficiency in social programs is important to maintaining their legitimacy amidst allegations of corruption. Biometrics can help and have been deployed successfully to meet identical goals in Andhra Pradesh.

Biometrics bust 9,000 more ghosts in Nigeria

Katsina discovers 9,000 ghost workers (Vanguard)

ABUJA—GOVERNOR Ibrahim Shema of Kastina State has said his government discovered 9,000 ghost workers on the payroll of the state.

Shema, who addressed stakeholders in Abuja, promised that his administration will do everything possible to stamp out the ghost workers syndrome in the state.

He explained that before the implementation of the payment of N18,000 minimum wage, his administration embarked on the biometric capturing of the civil servants in the state.

I’d guess that Nigeria has been the country most aggressively applying biometrics to reduce fraud in government payrolls.

Where Eight Out of Every Seven People are on Welfare…

In TN, ration card holders exceed population (Deccan Herald)

The number of persons with ration cards in Tamil Nadu, as enumerated under the Public Distribution System (PDS), far exceeds the state’s population.

However, the secretary to the state government has informed that the bogus ration cards will be eliminated over the next two to three years after biometric smart cards are issued. Pointing out discrepancies in the verification process, the CAG report said in Chennai district alone (barring one zone), 5.97 lakh “suspected bogus family cards” were identified during a door-to-door verification between October 2009 and August 2010 and stop supply was issued subsequently.

Tamil Nadu
Source Wikipedia

As far as Indian states go, Tamil Nadu seems to do pretty well in many socio-economic categories. Bringing more rigor to welfare programs can only help. Biometrics can be a cheap and effective means to that end.

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