Queen Maxima praises Benazir Income Support Programme

ISLAMABAD: The Queen of Netherland, Queen Maxima, has praised the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) during her visit to Pakistan. The Queen expressed her appreciation towards the way BISP is helping millions across Pakistan.

The Queen of Netherland is visiting Pakistan as the United Nation’s (UN) Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development. She said that Pakistan is in the right position to move ahead in terms of economy and development. The Chairperson for the BISP, Marvi Memon, briefed the Queen on the progress BISP has made thus far for the poorest section of Pakistan. The BISP has benefited more than 5.2 million people all over the country.

BISP plans to update its current debit card system to a biometric system of identification in order to increase the efficiency of providing financial assistance to beneficiaries. With the biometric system of identification, financial assistance will only be provided through fingerprints.

The Chairperson of the BISP Marvi Memon proposed the biometric up-gradation during a meeting which was chaired by the Federal Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar. The Chairperson BISP also said that the number of cash points will also be increased across the country in order to facilitate the beneficiaries. A new banking model for the BISP and updates regarding the National Socio-Economic Registry were also discussed during the meeting.

The BISP was launched in 2008 to provide financial aid to deserving families all over the country. Initially, the cash transfer amount was Rs. 1000 per month which was later increased to Rs. 1500 per month for eligible families that require financial assistance.

The Nationwide Poverty Scorecard Survey reported that more than 7.7 million families in Pakistan were living below the cut-off score of 16.17 (below poverty line). The BISP was developed with the objective of providing support to the deserving families in Pakistan during the economic recession.

Another aspect of the BISP is the accusation of major corruption scandals that it has faced in recent times. In 2015, the Auditor General of Pakistan detected huge financial corruption while citing the audit report for fiscal years 2013 and 2014.

According to the audit report, an amount of Rs. 2,049.703 million was paid to 683,235 beneficiaries who either did not have a Computerized National Identity Card (CNIC) or the thumb impressions on the CNIC’s were not updated. Moreover, the report stated that the BISP paid Rs. 4,413.925 million to five commercial banks for onward distribution which was seen as an ‘undue favor’.

The total number of ‘ineligible’ beneficiaries across the country, according to the audit report, has reached 683,235. The payments were made by Bank Al-Falah, Habib Bank Ltd, Tameer Bank, Summit Bank and United Bank Ltd. The Departmental Accounts Committee (DAC), in 2013, directed the BISP management to provide the complete list of the ineligible beneficiaries within a week.

However, the BISP management failed to provide the list which established the ineligibility reported by the audit report. The audit ordered an inquiry, however, no compliance report was provided by the BISP management.

In November 12, 2015, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) arrested three people who were accused of corruption in the BISP cards and illegal withdrawal of cash from the accounts of poor women in Okara.

With the biometric up-gradation, the BISP management wishes to cleanse the process of providing funds to the eligible beneficiaries so that the transfer becomes transparent and the chances of corruption or illegal withdrawal of cash are minimized.

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