Massachusetts contemplating biometrics to curb welfare fraud

Bill proposes Mass. study implementation of fingerprinting, biometrics to reduce welfare fraud (MassLive)

Under the provision, the Department of Transitional Assistance and the Office of Health and Human Services would be required to study the feasibility of using biometrics – which includes fingerprints – to reduce fraud in public benefit programs.

The language, part of a $15.4 million amendment assembled by the House Committee on Ways and Means, cleared the House on a 158-0 vote Tuesday afternoon.

New York City actually implemented a system like this a few years back. It worked, too. Mayor Bloomberg liked it. Governor Cuomo didn’t. Survey data at the time indicated that a majority (53%) of Americans favored such an approach.

See:
New York City: Fingerprints for Auditing Food Stamps (October, 2011)
Governor Proposes to Prevent New York City From Using Biometrics To Stem Welfare Fraud (May, 2012)

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.

South Africa shows the way on transfer payments

MasterCard issues 10m debit cards for SA social grants (Gadget)

This milestone marks the conclusion of the re-registration phase of the project, with social grant beneficiaries having received their new Debit MasterCard cards with biometric functionality, issued by Grindrod Bank, in association with SASSA and Net1 UEPS Technologies (Net1).

Since March 2012, just under 22 million social grant beneficiaries have re-registered onto the new system introduced by SASSA to minimise fraudulent grant applications and collections and reduce grant administration costs by distributing all grant payments electronically.

Ireland: Better ID increases efficiency of welfare

Welfare keeps economy going, says Joan Burton (The Irish Times)

The ceiling on her department’s spend next year had been set at €610 million lower than this year. Savings as a result of measures already taken would begin to bear fruit next year, and so the “ask” was a cut of €440 million. There were also increasing “asks” being made by changing demographics. There were more pensioners who were also living longer, the Minister said.

The live register was slowly coming down – now at 13.6 per cent – but not in some of the communities worst affected by unemployment. While foreign investment in job creation was healthy, the types of jobs being created were not helping the communities worst-affected by unemployment, she said.

Ms Burton said fraud prevention measures, such as identity checks and biometric identity cards, were saving €700 million a year.

It’s not easy to draw a definite conclusion from the facts prevented about how much the better ID techniques are contributing to lower budget requests from the Minister for Social Protection. Foreign investment, job creation and the changing demographics of the retired portion of the population also influence the demands upon the Ministry, but better ID management certainly helps.

Philippines: Biometrics help Manila facilitate better flood control measures

Biometric census on informal settler families living along Manggahan Floodway has already been completed (Manila Bulletin)

Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Francis Tolentino said yesterday they have sent the list of identified informal settlers residing in eight identified priority waterways in Metro Manila who are scheduled to be relocated by next December.

Once shanties have been removed, the government can start with the flood-preventing projects which are hampered by the presence of illegal structures along the waterways.

The move is part of the flood control master plan in a bid to solve the perennial flood problems in the Metro Manila.

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.

Dikshit sics Nilekani on banks

CM seeks Nilekani’s intervention to clear obstacles in UID cash transfer (Indian Express)

Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit on Monday sought Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) chairman Nandan Nilekani’s intervention in overcoming obstacles in opening accounts in banks, which the government maintained, had not rendered active cooperation. Dikshit said she also plans to write a letter to the Union Finance Minister in this regard shortly.

Following a meeting with Nilekani, Dikshit said the government was keen on increasing the number of beneficiaries under the Aadhaar-based direct cash transfers. “We hope to increase intended beneficiaries in Delhi to at least 30 lakh but there are still obstacles in opening bank accounts. This results in difficulties for beneficiaries,” Dikshit said.

It was about a year ago that Chief Minister Dikshit reached out to Mr. Nilekani to help lift the pace of UID enrollment in Delhi.

Delhi is one of the most populated cities in the world. It’s also right next to/contains India’s capital of New Delhi (see Delhi or New Delhi: What’s the Delhio?). So, if UID is to be considered a success at streamlining the welfare system through cash transfers, it needs to succeed in Delhi.

South Africa: Social grants spokesperson deems biometric technology “a worthy investment”

Analysis: State of the art technology behind SA’s social grants (The New Age)

The latest biometric technology used by the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) to disburse social grants to about 16 million beneficiaries on a monthly basis is proving to be a worthy investment in making life easier for beneficiaries of social grants.

The number of beneficiaries of social grants in South Africa grew from 2 million in 1994 to about 16 million in February 2013. Of these an estimated 11 million are Child Support Grant beneficiaries.

Since March 2012, Sassa has been engaged in the process of mass enrolment of all beneficiaries using the latest biometric technology. This followed a major announcement by Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini on behalf of the government. The technology includes finger and palm verification as well as voice recognition to ensure that the grant money is paid to the relevant beneficiary at all times.

I didn’t realize that the number of people Sassa has to keep up with had expanded eight-fold in less than twenty years. It’s probably a god idea to automate fraud detection in a disbursements organization that is growing as rapidly as that. Otherwise, it’s hard to see how a fraud detection system that depended upon old-school detective types could keep up. Creating the human capital and cultural climate for their success is a long and expensive process.

India & UID: Connecting the ID and financial infrastructure

FinMin to study progress of financial inclusion, direct benefit transfer schemes (The Hindu)

The Finance Ministry has convened a meeting of the heads of state-owned banks on February 6 to take stock of their financial inclusion drive and readiness to roll out direct benefit transfer across the country.

In the run-up to the general elections, which is only a year away, the UPA Government apparently wants the financial inclusion and direct benefit transfer (DBT) initiatives to reach the bottom of the socio-economic pyramid.

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.

Nomadic Norwegian ghost children!

ID scams may lead to DNA testing (Views and News from Norway)

Calls were being made this week for mandatory DNA-testing of children born at home in Norway, following several welfare fraud cases involving women who claimed benefits for children they never had. More than 70 children have been deleted from the state’s public register (Folkeregister) because they didn’t exist.

Newspaper Aftenposten reported this week that state welfare agency NAV had uncovered the scam carried out by Roma women in Norway. NAV revealed that the children had never been born and that their “parents” had received more than NOK 30 million (USD 5.5 m) in welfare benefits. Some of the children had existed on paper since 1995.

The magic game-changer

Direct benefit transfer: Not a panacea, but a likely game changer (VC Circle)

Here’s the conclusion:

Yet, the basic idea of providing entitlement benefits directly to the beneficiary bank account through technologically superior, cheaper and more efficient distribution channels can hardly be questioned. The process is likely to have large positive macroeconomic externalities. Unfortunately, rather than deliberating on the larger issues, the ongoing debate on DBT is getting bogged down in the discussion of ulterior motives, teething and implementation concerns and thereby missing the wood for the trees.

I’d emphasize “cheaper”. The discussion of the macroeconomic externalities is something you don’t see too much of when UID is discussed.

This is one of those times where the temptation to just poach the whole article is strong. Click through and read the whole thing. There’s not a wasted paragraph among the eight in this compact and thoughtful piece.

Ireland busting welfare ghosts with face recognition

Troubled Facebook software to tackle dole fraud (Irish Examiner)

In its latest effort to weed out welfare cheats, the Department of Social Protection plan to begin using facial-matching software from the beginning of the new year. The software will use photographic identification supplied with all new claims to automatically detect any other claims made by that person.

The technology will also have the ability to compare the supplied image with images stored by other Government bodies such as photos taken for driving licences and passports. The department believes this will help to stamp out dole cheats’ ability to use forged or stolen identities to make multiple claims.

I guess you can tell from the headline that the Examiner doesn’t approve. Nevertheless, facial recognition is a pretty good way to catch some welfare cheats.

If the photos are already available, running them through a facial recognition engine to search for duplicates doesn’t require any new, specialized hardware or add any steps for the people that do the one-on-one work with prospective beneficiaries.

The system Ireland is rolling out is similar ones in use in the United States (i.e. New York) for preventing identity fraud through the issuance of multiple drivers licenses under multiple names to the same person.

India: UID exposing ghost welfare beneficiaries and what the numbers mean

Aadhar helps weed out fake ration cards in Andhra  (The Indian Express)

Linking the public distribution system to Aadhar has been unearthing a huge number of fake or duplicate ration cards and civil supplies officials are now counting their savings per ration shop. In some Andhra Pradesh districts where enrolment is high, officials have counted savings up to Rs 10-12 crore every month.

“In Hyderabad district we are seeing savings of Rs 40,000 per fair-price shop per month,” says commissioner of civil supplies Harpreet Singh. “In East Godavari, it is Rs 30,000. Since the online centralised data cannot be manipulated at shop level, only the intended beneficiaries are able to take rations. Both the Centre and the state, which give heavy subsidies, are saving.”

I haven’t done this in a while.

Of course, the numbers up there are big and it seems pretty bad but what does it mean?

First the money:
Rs 11 crore = 110,000,000 rupees = USD 2 million  (2,005,424.95 as of today)

Then what the money means in context:
India GDP – per capita (PPP): $3,700 (2011 est.)

Two million dollars represents the annual earnings of 542 average Indians being stolen from the welfare system in just this one type of scheme (fake cards at ration shops) every month in this one district alone.

To compare apples to apples (years to years), that’s the annual productive capacity of 6,504 Indians disappearing into the pockets of fraudsters in a single district every year.

There are 640 districts in India.

India: Plugging welfare leakages with biometrics

The HinduThe State government of Karnataka has rejected more than 118,000 applications seeking ration cards in Gulbarga and Yadgir districts. The state has also cancelled 5.2 million ration cards.

Since, biometric details have been required in association with applications for public assistance, fewer applications have passed muster with the authorities.

The linked article is heavy on statistics.

India: Direct cash transfers for welfare beginning January 1

Aadhaar-based cash transfer in 51 districts (Hindustan Times)

The government will launch direct cash transfer in 51 districts from 1 January and cover the entire country by April 2014, just ahead of the next Lok Sabha elections. The Prime Minister’s Office on Friday cleared the roadmap to implement the UPA-2’s ambitious project that could see the government crediting nearly Rs. 2,000 billion — around 40 % of Centre’s plan budget — straight into bank accounts of millions of beneficiaries of government schemes across the country.

For some background on the pilot projects and how they have gone, check out this article at the Deccan Herald. The headline is pretty harsh but the article is very thorough.

Exciting times for UID and India.

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