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Sunday October 24, 2021

Federal cabinet wishes political role in Ehsaas Programme

April 25, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Members of the federal cabinet wanted an active role during the distribution of funds under the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Proramme in a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, apparently to get political gains and for that the members raised concerns over lack of political inclusion as well as reluctance to share data of the beneficiaries, the official document available with The News revealed.

According to documents, PM Imran Khan congratulated the Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Division on successful launching of Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme, directed to ensure merit and keep the programme free of any political interference. He urged to ensure transparency and outreach across the party lines, and it would a great achievement of the government.

Nevertheless, the political ownership was an important element for the success of the initiative, and for that the prime minister suggested that the local political leadership should get involved to mobilise workers for identifying deserving families missed out during the registration process. Such families could be assisted in getting registered via SMS or through district administration. He, however, stressed that in case the criteria would be compromised, then all the applicants should pass data analytical test to qualify for the programme.

However, special assistant to PM on social protection and poverty alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar refused to share data with the cabinet meeting, saying the organisation was legally bound to keep anonymity of the data and could not disclose specifics. "This is statuary compulsion as the board would not allow disclosure of data of beneficiaries," she said, adding that utmost efforts were being made for political ownership of the program. She said it would be greatly befitting if the cabinet members would visit their respective constituencies and lead the support effort. A cabinet member suggested the regional program coordinators could be appointed to assist the parliamentarians of their respective areas as it is not possible for everyone to reach out. The cabinet also appreciated the suggestion and directed Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Division to implement the same as early as possible.

According to the documents, the cabinet appreciated the successful launch of Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme, asking about the need for Rs300 million on communication strategies and at this stage the substantial amount of cash assistance had already been disbursed. The members also raised concerns over the lack of political inclusion as well as reluctance to share data of the beneficiaries. In the meeting, the need for increasing cash disbursement centers for convenience of citizens and ensuring social-distancing was also highlighted. A suggestion in the meeting was also given to use mobile banking platforms for transferring support assistance fund to the beneficiaries.

Special Assistant to the PM clarified that till now the funds had been disbursed only to the existing beneficiaries of the Ehsaas Programme and in the next phase, it would bring first-time beneficiaries into the fold. Instructional ads were required for the new beneficiaries, for which Rs300 million communication support had been approved by the ECC, which would be spent through the Ministry of Information.

However, Dr Sania informed the cabinet saying a web portal would be made online in a few days, which would have the district-wise details of the programme. The operational issues such as increasing disbursement centres, biometric rejections, and apprehending fraudsters, on using the mobile banking platforms were discussed. She explained that there was a certain lobby which was pedaling commercial interests to secure sole source contracts for digital wallets but the disbursement mechanism in vogue had been developed in consultation with controller general of accounts and auditor general of Pakistan.