The Manipur and Tripura governments have made significant strides in ensuring that last mile benefits are received by the most vulnerable by partnering with a NGO, Swaniti Initiative.
The intervention is focused on improving access to a range of government benefits which are administered through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) Schemes.
Swaniti Initiative’s interventions have helped affect nearly 1,58,392 digital transactions and payments amounting to a total value of Rs 103 crore between June 2019 and February 2020.
Direct Benefit transfer programs have helped the government save as much as Rs. 1.7 trillion through direct transfer of subsidies to genuine beneficiaries till December, 2019 . While states like Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh have reported a large number of beneficiaries, north eastern states of India like Manipur and Tripura have lagged behind due to reasons such as pilferage, a lack of manpower, a lack of awareness, technological impediments, etc.
The Swaniti Initiative team decided to tackle the problems and streamline processes for schemes that cover the most beneficiaries and could have the greatest impact. “Looking at various schemes, we noticed that each scheme had a different architecture, and thus, the disbursement process needed to be created for easy convergence,” said Gaurav Bhattacharya, Program Manager at Swaniti Initiative.“Schemes such as the Pradhan Mantri Atal Bima Yojana, the Centre’s old-age pension scheme, and the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana, a maternity benefit programme, stood out as ones which had the maximum room for impact,” he added.
Following on from consultations with multiple stakeholders at both the centre and state level, the key intervention chosen was to get administrations to adopt the Public Financial Management System (PFMS), a central platform for efficient management of funds through tracking of funds and real-time reporting of expenditure and receipts. We further acted as a liason facilitating discussions between government departments and the PFMS team to identify barriers as to why schemes were not being on boarded onto the platform, and develop solutions
“The most immediate impact was that schemes that had previously been administered inefficient ways, which resulted in not all funds reaching intended beneficiaries, are now on the PFMS platform, which prevents this from occurring,” said Pushkar Prasun, Program Lead from Swaniti Initiative in Manipur. The project has helped improve access of schemes to those in hilly areas as the geography of North Eastern states can provide unique challenges when implementing schemes.
In the project period, 1,34,802 users/people made or received digital payments. A key highlight for Swaniti Initiative was that 78,800 of these users operated through women-owned accounts – a cohort that has traditionally not only shied away from technology, but also financial independence. Assessment of the Old Age Pension Scheme in Manipur showed that onboarding the scheme payment failure has been reduced to less than 1%, while payment error and failure as per last payment is zero in the Department of Urban Development Tripura.
Other more qualitative benefits were also observed such as improving communication, systems, and processes across departments, to identify barriers to policy implementation and workable solutions. Good practice was also put in place such as implementing feedback loops to ensure training was beneficial and resulted in real changes in practice.