Opinion: Expand LEAP pay points to improve implementation

Barikisu Mohammed, Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre Project Officer | Photo: SEND Ghana Barikisu Mohammed, Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre Project Officer | Photo: SEND Ghana

By: Barikisu Barikisu Mohammed, Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre Project Officer, SEND Ghana

In August 2017, SEND Ghana visited the Tokali payment center in the Wa West District to witness the 49th LEAP payment.

LEAP or "Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty" is a flagship government program to support the poorest and most vulnerable households with cash transfers to meet their basic needs, launched in 2008 under the National Social Protection Strategy.

Beneficiaries had arrived at the center as early as 8 a.m., since that was the time communicated to them by the officials. But by 12 p.m., no official had arrived at the center and there was no indication as to whether or not the payment would take place.

“They asked us to come here at 8 a.m., so I woke up very early, traveled all the way from my village [Dodomo] to this place on foot without taking breakfast, and have been waiting for over 4 hours now,” a beneficiary named Akosua Nantam told our team. “We don't know if they want us to spend the whole day here doing nothing when we have other things we could have attended to before coming here.”

When the officials finally arrived at 12:45 p.m., the social welfare officer explained how tedious the payment process is, even when the electronic payment devices are operational.

“Before we got here, we had to serve about 150 beneficiaries in three other communities in Vieri,” the officer said.

Per the program design, beneficiaries are not supposed to travel more than 5 miles to access their money. That is why the financial institution has to travel from community to community to make mobile payments.

“Until such a time where issues regarding accessible banking are well addressed in Ghana, the mobile LEAP payment will have to continue,” the officer said.

Evidence shows that LEAP cash transfers have contributed to improving household consumptions and reducing poverty. However, significant challenges with accessibility and implementation remain.

In order to effectively address these challenges, the Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement System must review the operations of participating financial institutions to expand their pay points during LEAP payment periods.

Financial institutions must also expand their human resource capacity during payment periods to fast-track payment and reduce the amount of time beneficiaries spend at the pay centers.

These changes would address the challenges presented by the limited number of payment centers across the country, and save beneficiaries travelling long distances and waiting in queues for hours – sometimes days – to access their cash.

SEND GHANA's monitoring visit was conducted under the Addressing Inequality through Pro-poor Budget Advocacy project, with funding from the FORD Foundation. The main objective of the project is to reduce poverty and inequality in Ghana by influencing budgetary allocations and disbursements to pro-poor interventions through the LEAP implementation. Since its inception, the project has educated communities on the LEAP program and provided opportunity for beneficiaries to influence budget preparations.

This opinion piece was originally published as part of the July 2018 edition of Citizens' Watch, SEND GHANA's quarterly newsletter.

Update: Concerns with the number of LEAP pay points and human resource capacity were expressed as part of citizen inputs into the 2019 budget, collated by SEND GHANA and submitted in a letter to the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection on September 24, 2018. The ministry replied in a letter to SEND GHANA on September 28, 2018 that it "is currently reviewing its contract with Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems Limited (GhIPSS) to progressively expand the pay points by recruiting more Payment Financial Institutions (PFI's)."

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