Report on SAGE funds for Kole was wrong
Posted Tuesday, July 1 2014 at 01:00
Protection programme has in place effective systems and guidelines which remain reliable and effective
This is in response to the story in the Saturday Monitor of June 22 titled, “Shs400 million for the elderly goes missing.” It was in regard to a report on the alleged missing Shs400 million meant for SAGE beneficiaries in Kole District. We would like to provide a number of corrections and clarifications as follows:
The Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE) programme has developed a comprehensive fraud risk management strategy. This risk management strategy is designed to prevent fraud and to detect and respond to any cases of fraud if they take place.
In December 2013, beneficiaries in Kole Disrict were due to be paid between Shs50,000 and Shs75,000 each depending on which sub-county they resided in. These payments were larger than usual because due to logistical challenges in Kole in November 2013, some beneficiaries were due arrears.
In January 2014, the SAGE Management Information System detected that a number of payments in Kole had been made outside the official pay time in December 2013. We, therefore, immediately initiated internal investigations to determine whether any fraudulent activity had taken place. The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development wrote to the Inspector General of Police requesting that the police initiate a criminal investigation.
Investigations continue and, although not yet complete, it is clear that (contrary to programme procedures) a large number of beneficiaries in Kole were asked to hand over SAGE mobile money SIM cards to a third party in December 2013. On March 28, three SAGE staff in Kole District were suspended for allowing this to happen. Beneficiaries should never have been asked to surrender their SIM cards or PINs to anyone.
Analysis of the transaction data from all the affected beneficiaries’ mobile money accounts has allowed us to confirm that the MTN mobile money agent in Kole appears to have withdrawn more money from many of these SIM cards than was physically disbursed to the SAGE beneficiaries. Most such beneficiaries report receiving Shs25,000 less than was actually due to them. However, not all of the 8,489 beneficiaries in Kole were affected. Therefore, the figure of Shs400 million reported is a gross exaggeration.
SAGE, MTN and the police are in the process of confirming the final volume of funds not disbursed to SAGE beneficiaries and investigating whether the mobile money agent, SAGE staff or other parties were involved in fraud. The next actions, including recovery of lost monies, will be determined by findings of the on-going investigations by SAGE and the police.
The programme has put in place measures to ensure continuity so that administration of the grants in Kole District remains uninterrupted. Indeed a new mobile money agent has been appointed while the investigations continue and bi-monthly payments have already resumed. The SAGE programme management reiterates that Expanding Social Protection programme has in place effective systems and guidelines which remain reliable and effective.
Expanding Social Protection Programme