Nagad has already disbursed the money to more than 5.5 lakh families, bKash has disbursed cash to 3.5 lakh families while Rocket and SureCash handled the rest
Overcoming allegations of anomalies on the list of beneficiaries, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's cash aid of Tk2,500 per family has been disbursed to around 28 percent of the 50 lakh eligible ones.
According to the government, there is no chance for anyone to embezzle the money, though there were a few allegations regarding the list.
The money is being disbursed to the genuine beneficiaries through mobile financial services (MFS), said sources concerned.
Dr Ahmad Kaikaus, principal secretary to the prime minister, told The Business Standard on Thursday noon that 14 lakh families received the gift before Eid.
"We are going a bit slow as we are trying to reach the actual beneficiaries. The list is being updated continuously. It may take a few more days to disburse the money to all deserving people," he said.
Among the total beneficiaries, 17 lakh families are supposed to receive the aid through Nagad, 15 lakh through bKash, 10 lakh through Rocket, and 8 lakh through SureCash.
According to sources, Nagad already disbursed the cash aid to more than 5.5 lakh families, bKash to 3.5 lakh families and the other two services handled the rest.
Our correspondents around the country have not yet received any allegations regarding the beneficiaries who have already received the cash aid. Local administration said cash aid is being disbursed centrally, and they have not received any complaints from the people either.
Experts, however, said that a good initiative by the prime minister got delayed due to a faulty list and that the aid did not reach the eligible families in time.
According to them, preparing a flawed list is the failure of local governments and administrations. It should be investigated and those responsible must be held accountable.
Dr Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), said the implementation of the initiative required more skills and coordination.
"Inefficiency, incoordination, lack of skills in data management, and corrupt attitudes and activities of a group unscrupulous people hampered the most significant pro-people initiative taken by the government during such a serious national crisis."
But no shortcomings, he added, are desirable in implementing such a noble initiative. "The government has the capability to overcome it and they are doing that."
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina took the initiative to support 50 lakh low-income people who are out of the social safety net, including rickshaw and van-pullers, day labourers, dock (ferry) workers, shop employees, small traders, barbers, hawkers, construction workers, agriculture workers, workers in private businesses, workers in poultry and dairy farms and transport workers who became jobless due to the nationwide shutdown amid the pandemic.
The government made the decision to disburse Tk1,250 crore among 50 lakh families through mobile financial services such as bKash, Rocket, Nagad and SureCash. The disbursement was supposed to take place between May 14 and 18.
Since the inauguration of the disbursement process on May 14 through mobile financial services, allegations of anomalies in making lists of beneficiaries have surfaced from different parts of the country.
Among the alleged irregularities, issues such as using the same mobile numbers for many beneficiaries, the inclusion of rich people and those already under the social safety net in the list drew strong criticisms from different quarters.
The government then stopped disbursing the money and ordered the local administrations to update the list after revisions and reviews.
According to government sources, most of the local administrations sent the list after necessary updates, which is under a review. Besides, more updates are needed for a large number of people whose data are incorrect.
Ahmad Kaikaus said, "We are reviewing the received data and sending it to the assigned mobile financial services. They are disbursing the money after verifying that data with the national database of the Election Commission."
Shah Kamal, senior secretary to the disaster management and relief ministry, said, "Eligible beneficiaries, who do not have access to mobile phones or mobile financial services, will receive the cash aid through banks.
"As we are preparing the list as a database, we want to do that perfectly. Through this list, we will provide services in the future. So, for the sake of an error-free list, we are taking our time. We will open bank accounts for the aid-receivers for disbursing money to those who do not have a mobile phone number."
How was the list made and why are there so many errors?
Local representatives were asked to prepare a list for eligible beneficiaries by forming a committee. The list was then reviewed at the upazila level and later was sent for data entry.
Sources said, during the data entry process, there was an option to enter any 11-digit number in the data sheet, with plans to replace it with verified phone numbers of beneficiaries.
Government sources said during the verification process at the upazila level, they reviewed 20 percent of the names, and after correcting those, it was sent to the ministry. In the final stage during the disbursements, some issues arose.
Mobile financial services checked the list through NID verification, and this process needs the same mobile number listed on the NID database.
Shah Kamal said, "We are disbursing money only after being confirmed with their national identity cards or bank accounts. The disbursement process was supposed to be completed by May 18; now it may take a few more days as the list is being updated."
State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief Md Enamur Rahman said during the third week of May 16 percent of the phone numbers were repeated on the list.
Different parts of the country witnessed the same allegations with some differences as relatives of local representatives and rich people were added to the list. Such people are not eligible for this cash aid.
Shah Kamal, senior secretary to the disaster management and relief ministry, said the government is taking actions against those who tried to add fake beneficiaries on the list.
"There is no room for graft," said the senior government official, adding, "Because, the system has been designed in such a way that the money will not go to the same mobile phone number more than once."
2 UP chairmen suspended
The local government ministry on Thursday suspended two Union Parishad chairmen and three members for their involvement in preparing a fake list for the prime minister's cash aid.
The Local Government Division of the ministry issued separate notifications in this regard.
The suspended chairmen are – Kabir Ahmed of Birgaon union in Nabinagar upazila and Md Jamal Uddin Bhuiyan of Bishnupur union of Bijoynagar upazila under Brahmanbaria district.
According to sources, a few other public representatives will be suspended within a short period of time for their alleged involvement in making the fake list.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina wanted to disburse the money before Eid for the low-income people as a gift. But due to anomalies in the list, it could not be disbursed to all the people in time.
"We are adamant on helping the genuinely eligible people, but we became concerned about the list. Though it is late, we will reach the deserving people within a few days," said Ahmad Kaikaus.