Beneficiaries of the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty Programme (LEAP) in 185 districts in the country will now receive their monies electronically on their e-zwich cards.
This follows a two year agreement signed between the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection and the Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems (GhIPSS).
Two years ago, the Ministry decided to adopt electronic means of paying the beneficiary to ensure transparency and efficiency. It started on pilot basis using the e-zwich biometric system and mobile money and has now decided to go the whole hog using e-zwich.
With the agreement, the payment of LEAP cash transfers to beneficiaries through e-zwich will expand from the current 13 district to 185 districts.
LEAP was developed by the government of Ghana in 2008 as a flagship National Protection Strategy programme to empower extremely poor populations in the country. It is a cash transfer programme for the poorest and the most vulnerable households in the country with particular emphasis on households with orphans and vulnerable children, the elderly and severely disabled persons. There are currently 144,980 beneficiaries and this number is expected to be increased by 50,000 in January next year.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection Nana Oye Lithur said the decision to go electronic was because it was more robust, transparent and efficient. She said it also allows for quicker reconciliation of payments made and will enable the beneficiaries to be part of the banking system. "We want to ensure that it is only the LEAP beneficiary that is able to access the monies and it will also provide financial inclusion for LEAP beneficiaries".
Mrs. Lithur also said unlike the old system that cash was handed over to the beneficiaries who may be enticed to use it all at once, the beneficiaries now have the flexibility to withdraw just what they need from their e-zwich card and go for more as and when they need arises. She commended the World Bank and the Department for International Development (DFID) of the United Kingdom for supporting the programe and pledged government´s commitment to continue to expand it.
Chief Executive of GhIPSS Archie Hesse commended the Minister and the government for supporting the cashless agenda and said every effort will be made to ensure a smooth service to the beneficiaries. He said by using the e-zwich system, the LEAP beneficiaries would automatically have access to full fledge bank accounts and the accompanying benefits. He said GhIPSS will work with Rural Banks and other financial institutions to deploy Point of Sales devices in these communities, so that LEAP beneficiaries can begin to use their cards to shop and enjoy the convenience that comes with it.