Govt to streamline Samurdhi scheme amidst allegation of irregularities
Sri Lanka government has embarked on streamlining of the Samurdhi (poverty alleviation relief) payment scheme confining only to the eligible poorest of the poor people countrywide strictly identifying the needy in the wake of World Bank concerns on irregularities in the system.
World Bank survey has revealed that nearly forty percent of Sri Lanka’s Samurdhi welfare recipients are ineligible to receive the benefits.
The Committee on Public Finance emphasized the need of maintaining a register with accurate data for transparent payment of these benefits but the preparation of a transparent register of welfare beneficiaries, further delayed due to the trade union actions of the officials.
It was revealed at the meeting of the Committee held recently (Jan. 10) that a problematic situation has arisen due to the refusal of Samurdhi officials to collect data to prepare a social welfare register, identifying those who deserve benefits with transparency.
This was revealed when the orders of the Extraordinary Gazette No. 2302/23 published under the Welfare Benefits Act No. 24 of 2002 were taken into consideration at the Committee of Public Finance under the Chairmanship of Member of Parliament Dr.Harsha De Silva.
It was further revealed that it is a proposal of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to carry out the activities transparently without corruption in the payment of Samurdhi and welfare benefits and accordingly the responsibility for this is assigned to the Welfare Benefits Board.
Thus, the orders were published in this gazette for the necessary arrangements for the data collection process.
Accordingly, the Chairman of the Welfare Benefits Board Mr. B. Wijeratne said that trade unions of Samurdhi Department officers, Grama Niladharis and Economic Development officers have brought to the notice the difficulties faced by them.
They informed that they would not carry out the next phase of this program until measures are taken to amend the section 21 and 22 of the Welfare Benefits Act as even their employment could be lost in the event if the applicants would not reveal their information truly and correctly at the enumeration.
He pointed out that the officers who enter false data are also subject to punishment by this section 21 and 22, thus they have refused to collect this data until those sections are amended.
Acceptance of initial applications to identify suitable individuals/families for receiving welfare benefit payments had recently ended.
The Chairman of the Welfare Benefits Board said that a mobile application was also introduced to collect secondary data by visiting the houses of the applicants who have applied for welfare benefits.
Suggestion has been made to make the National Identity Card mandatory in the payment of welfare benefits.
Thus, the committee emphasized the need to solve this problem as soon as possible to create a culture free from corruption and fraud, as the delay in preparing this register may lead to delay in obtaining the assistance of the International Monetary Fund. (IMF)
It has also recommended to take decisions related to carrying out these data collection activities promptly by following an alternative method