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January 21, 2019

There's No evidence social protection payees binge on alcohol, cigarettes

Murang’a woman representative Sabina Chege, Social Security PS Susan Mochache and Ahadi Kenya CEO Stanley Kamau during a handover of money from the cash transfer programme for the elderly. / ALICE WAITHERA
Murang’a woman representative Sabina Chege, Social Security PS Susan Mochache and Ahadi Kenya CEO Stanley Kamau during a handover of money from the cash transfer programme for the elderly. / ALICE WAITHERA

 Although direct cash transfers are one of the most-studied development interventions, questions around the feasibility of such programmes keep on coming up. 

Is it also possible some beneficiaries might waste the money on things like alcohol and cigarettes, which they otherwise could not afford? 

In Kenya and around the world, policy makers cite successes of similar programmes in Brazil and some other Latin American countries. 

But the context differs. While Kenya is rural, these countries are largely urban and cash transfer works better for them than in-kind transfers that Kenya has run since the 1960s. 

Identifying the right beneficiaries could also be a challenge. But John Gachigi from the Labour ministry's social protection department says potential beneficiaries are subjected to several layers of vetting, including by community members. 

“It is watertight and we have several community mobilisation meetings before beneficiaries are picked,” he says. 

All the programmes were first started on pilot basis in Kenya, largely riding on growing evidence that direct cash transfers indeed reduce poverty and promote local economies. 

There's also no evidence that poor beneficiaries are likely to misuse the money they receive. 



Last year, the Labour ministry adopted the single-registry system, which eliminates fraud attempts by ensuring beneficiary details are verified electronically against the 30 million national population registry database. 

“It also provides checks against one beneficiary receiving multiple benefits within and across programmes,” Gachigi says. 

Nairobi-based development group, the African Institute for Health and Development (AIHD) has provided technical assistance to the ministry, together with the Partnership for African Social and Governance Research, another city-based research group, since the programmes began. 

Kenya has four key cash transfer schemes managed under the national safety net programme: for old people, for persons with severe disabilities, for orphans and vulnerable children, and the hunger safety net cash transfer. 

More than 500,000 households currently receive transfers on a regular basis in all the programmes. An additional 374,806 households in northern Kenya receive cash assistance in the case of extreme weather events. 

Last year, Social Protection PS Susan Mochache said the national government had spent Sh80.3 billion under the cash transfer programmes over the previous four years. 

They all have an exit strategy. 

Beneficiaries exit when the economic condition of the household is considered to have improved or when a household voluntarily chooses to withdraw from the programme. 

They can also be struck off the list if it is discovered that a beneficiary gave false information to get into the programme or when they fail to collect payment for three consecutive payments with no valid explanation. 

Other instances are when when the beneficiary moves from the location where they were receiving the payment to a location that is not covered by the programme they are in. 

When the beneficiary dies — especially the old people and the disabled — the household continues to receive the cash for the next three payments only. They then exit the programme. 

Households taking care of orphans also exit when the child reaches 18 years. 



The old people's cash transfer programme covers 203,011 households across the country, according to the 2015-16 report. 

That number could increase in future. 

According to the 2009 Kenya Population and Housing Census, there were 1.3 million people above 65 years of age. Some 20.6 million were age 15-64, meaning a handful cross the 65+ age yearly. 

Considering the population increase by about one million yearly and a declining crude mortality rate from 11/1,000 in 2007 to 8.93/1,000 in 2011, the number of those ageing is expected to increase significantly by 2030. 

Currently, beneficiaries receive Sh2,000 per month delivered every two months through appointed payment agent, currently the Equity Bank and Kenya Commercial Bank. 

The cash transfer for orphans and vulnerable children was launched in 2004 to meet the needs of the country’s increasing number of children made vulnerable by poverty and HIV/Aids. 

It started as a pilot project in Garissa, Kwale and Nairobi, then supported by Unicef. At the initial stage it supported 500 households, each receiving Sh500 per month. 

The programme scaled up and in 2015-16, it reached about 246,000 households across the country. 

The persons with severe disabilities programme was launched in 2011 and supports adults and children who require full time support of a caregiver. 

The hunger safety net programme started in 2008 through the support of donors. It is currently under the Devolution ministry, managed by the National Drought Management Authority. 

The last scheme, the urban food subsidy programme, was launched in Mombasa in March 2012 . 

It reached 10,200 poor families, who received Sh2,000 each per month, before it was discontinued. 

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