Publication: Improving Payment Mechanisms in Cash-Based Safety Net Programs

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Subbarao, Kalanidhi
Kjellgren, Annika
Quintana, Rodrigo
Cash transfers have proliferated in the past decade as key policy instruments to tackle vulnerability and inequality. Payment mechanisms (PMs), the backbone of cash transfers, are the channels through which cash travels from the funding source to the hands of beneficiaries. In theory, the harmonization of payment flows in PMs with other program processes is critical to delivering the right benefit to the right people at the right time while minimizing costs. In reality, however, PMs tend to remain disconnected, rendering payments inefficient and plagued by error, fraud and corruption. In recent years, program operators, financial institutions, and technology innovators have developed strategies for streamlining payment flows. These innovations, if properly integrated into program management through a Management Information System (MIS) and supported by rigorous outreach, can not only promote efficiency and transparency but also ensure effectiveness. This paper provides a framework for integrating PMs within program management. It walks the reader through seven basic steps to process payments. It does so by articulating the flow of beneficiary information and funds from the point of beneficiary enrollment to payment reconciliation and grievance redress. It also looks at the framework through the lenses of different cash transfer interventions and the cases of Kenya, Rwanda, and Mexico. The paper concludes that to execute successful PMs it is key to: (i) integrate payments within an MIS; (ii) adopt a cost-effective mix of traditional and technology instruments suitable to the country's context in the short and long run; (iii) decentralize the control and accountability of service provision across government levels; (iv) understand the capacity and incentives of stakeholders; (v) provide manuals, training and information to key players; and (vi) enforce payment parameters and penalize their violation.
del Ninno, Carlo; Subbarao, Kalanidhi; Kjellgren, Annika; Quintana, Rodrigo. 2013. Improving Payment Mechanisms in Cash-Based Safety Net Programs. Social protection and labor discussion paper;no. 1305. © World Bank, Washington, DC. License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.
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