(Above) Helen Mudora presents project results at the Foundation’s annual grants workshop. The workshop shares monitoring and evaluation techniques with new grants partners and provides opportunities for networking and knowledge sharing.
Earlier this month, Helen Mudora, Programme Manager at Africa Platform for Social Protection (APSP), presented the results of her organisation’s project ‘Enhancing accountability for cash transfer programmes’ to our new cohort of grantees and our Board members at the annual Commonwealth Foundation grants workshop.
APSP’s project is being delivered in the counties of Busia, Kilifi and Kajiado in Kenya. In this interview, Helen discussed some results and lessons the project has generated with Gillian Cooper from the Knowledge, Learning and Communications team.
Gillian: What are social protection cash transfers?
Helen: The Africa Union defines social protection as: ‘responses by the state and society to protect citizens from risks, vulnerabilities and deprivations. It also includes strategies and programmes aimed at ensuring a minimum standard of livelihood for all people in a given country. This entails measures to secure education and health care, social welfare, livelihoods, access to a stable income, as well as employment’.
Social protection is largely seen to have three pillars: health insurance, social security, and social assistance. In Kenya, the three most common social assistance programmes include the Orphans and Vulnerable Children cash transfer (OVC-CT), the Older Persons cash transfer (OPCT) and the Persons with Severe Disabilities cash transfer (PWSD-CT).
‘Cash transfers have transformed the lives of thousands of people who would ordinarily find it a challenge to meet even their basic needs.’
The orphans and vulnerable children cash transfer programme was started by UNICEF as a pilot, mainly as a response to the crisis of HIV orphans. It is now funded by the government and gradually over time has included all children who face poverty and vulnerability.
Cash transfer programmes for older persons respond to the unique challenges faced by older persons including low income levels and destitution.
The Persons with Severe Disabilities cash transfer programme was started to meet the basic needs of carer families who may not be in a position to find time to generate income because of caring responsiblities for a family member with a severe disability.
In many countries, the poorest of the poor are PwDs. They face multiple barriers – the system disadvantages PwDs from earning an income. They don’t have access to services and there’s no transport to take them to school. Without schooling there is a close correlation to poverty – only about 5% of PwDs in Kenya make it to university – and so the PwDs cash transfer helps to redress this imbalance. Cash transfers have transformed the lives of thousands of people who would ordinarily find it a challenge to meet even their basic needs.
Gillian: What did APSP’s community sensitisation and social audits uncover about the cash transfer programme?
Helen: APSP works with communities to promote citizen engagement in the delivery of cash transfer services through social audits. We identify community organisations to work with, who in turn identify community monitors who form the link between government programmes, citizens, and beneficiaries.
APSP trains the community monitors in social protection, rights-based approaches and advocacy.
Community sensitisation forums are held to increase awareness levels of the communities and citizens about existing social protection programmes. APSP, in collaboration with community groups, then conduct a social audit of government programmes.
The social audit is a deeper way of generating evidence to inform policy.
This entails collecting data on various parameters of the government service charter, including timeliness of payments, distance to collection points, dignity in service delivery, awareness of existing government programmes, as well as impact of the cash transfers.
‘APSP is conscious to strike a balance, making sure not to undermine the relationship with government and manage the politics so it does not become confrontational.’
Our audits have found that some people in rural areas have to walk more than 6km, sometimes 7km, to collect the cash. In the urban areas this is not a problem as the service has been more decentralised and the road infrastructure is good. In rural areas beneficiaries walk longer distances to access the cash. We also found that the timeliness of payments varies. 50% say they get their payments on time. 33% have to wait about 6 months. For the rest, the time varies, some have delays more than six months.
We also looked at the length of time it takes to receive the cash at the bank. It was noted that because those who receive the cash are few in number, there is often a long line especially considering people have a short two week window within which to be paid.
Finally, the audit looked at the complaints and redress mechanism. We found that this has been poorly publicised as not many people know about the government toll free number, where they can report any challenges or issues. Currently the complaints process is still centralised at the headquarters in Nairobi, but the complaints might be made from 400km away! We are recommending that the complaints mechanism is decentralised so that people can lodge complaints and have it resolved at the community level.
Social accountability is about pushing for effective service delivery. What the government says it’s going to do should be done within the promised timeframe. That’s what it means to provide cash transfers as a right. APSP is trying to discourage tokenism and help community members realise that the cash transfer is a right. We’ve worked to build the confidence of the community so that if they find a problem, they have a right to complain and the government has an obligation to listen.
Gillian: What have been the most effective ways to track progress and ensure government accountability?
Helen: Evidence. You must generate evidence. For a long time, individuals would make complaints, but when you make a complaint as an individual, it’s not sufficient. But it becomes evidence when you bring in a bit of science, and present it as a research finding which shows that a particular phenomenon is a part of a bigger picture. And so, this project has helped us to move from individuals complaining, to a collective approach that generates evidence to inform policy.
‘Building capacity is about supporting marginalised groups to make their voice heard in a way that makes policy makers listen and respect them.’
Gillian: How has the project addressed gendered needs?
Helen: This is a work in progress. For starters, whenever we do community mobilisation, we always ask for a specific number of women and men. At the beginning, when you mobilise people to come together, you must make sure you get both men and women. You might not get a 50-50 ratio, but it’s important to set this as a target so that at least you will get a considerable number of women. For trainings we go the extra mile to get women to participate; we might need a sensitisation meeting to encourage participation.
We respect and are conscious of the triple roles of women. So for the community sensitisation forums, our starting time must take account of when women have completed their morning routine. We start at 9 or 10 and by 12:30 we must finish. If the timing is not right they will not come at all. We have also built the capacity of women to articulate their issues in different fora. For APSP’s international meetings, we make sure women from project communities are on the programme to speak.
Gillian: How does APSP engage with government to make change?
Helen: We seek opportunities to sit with government and meet in their Boardroom. We always request meetings with the Permanent Secretary in her/his Boardroom so that we share these findings with them first before it goes public. APSP is conscious to strike a balance, making sure not to undermine the relationship with government and manage the politics so it does not become confrontational. APSP is part of the National Steering Committee for Social Protection, which is a government constituted committee. This shows they have faith in our work.
Our engagement has paid off; APSP’s research has influenced the process of cash disbursement. In 2018, the government started a universal cash transfer for older people. Previous cash transfers were provided at only two banks. Now there are five banks from which to choose from. In addition, clients are given an ATM card, so they can access the money at any time.
We also engage in the legislative process. Social protection is in the constitution but there is no subsidiary law to enshrine the cash transfer system. APSP has been working with both Parliament and the Executive arm. We try to balance our engagement so we are not leaning on one side. Parliament now invite us to the departmental committee meetings and we are working with them to pass that law.
Gillian: How should marginalised groups be included in decision-making about policies that affect their lives?
Helen: Capacity building is very important. Building capacity is about supporting marginalised groups to make their voice heard in a way that makes policy makers listen and respect them. The voice is there but how they voice it may mean nobody can listen to them. They may be voicing it through complaints or in anger or desperation.
Evidence generation is one way. People are less likely to doubt statistics – you don’t have to bang tables when you have data. The skills we’ve been able to build for the community has been intense but transformational.
We have developed an advocacy tool. It provides steps for engaging and how to make your message hard-hitting. The advocacy tool includes a monitoring guide to help track meetings and progress so you can attribute the impact of your work to a policy change.
Gillian: What are the next steps for your project?
Helen: We are hoping our experiences can be used to replicate the project in other counties in Kenya. We can also replicate it in other countries – APSP works in 27. The project provides a very good basis for knowledge sharing. When we have our delegates meeting in August, grassroots representatives are part of the programme. We can show it as a model of citizen engagement in decision-making.
Beyond that our long term goal is for sustainability of social protection programmes. Our bigger advocacy agenda is around national budgets and processes. In many countries, social protection is funded by donors. In Kenya it is now 97% government funded but in other countries it is 100% donor funded. So where is the government commitment? We aim to push for social protection allocations from national budgets to meet the African Union Social policy framework – which states that every government should use 2% of its budget on social protection so that it is sustainable and not dependent on external donors.
Helen Mudora is Programme Manager at Africa Platform for Social Protection