The study was conducted by the Centre for Policy Dialogue using data from the government’s household income and expenditure survey-2016 and 1,500 households surveyed by the CPD in four districts of Rangpur division before the coronavirus outbreak.
Some 34.4 per cent beneficiaries of all the social safety net programmes are poor and 65.6 per cent are non-poor, said the report.
Many beneficiaries in survey areas — Gaibandha, Kurigram, Nilphamari and Rangpur — complained that they found it difficult to get enlisted for the government assistance programmes bypassing nepotism, political pressure and corruption.
‘As the allocation for the social safety net programmes is not adequate, it is crucial that the beneficiaries of the schemes are selected properly,’ said CPD senior research fellow Towfiqul Islam Khan while presenting the findings of the study, ‘Efficiency of Delivering Social Protection Programmes in North-West Region’ at a webinar.
The CPD survey was conducted on five social safety net categories — maternity allowance, primary and secondary school stipends, employment generation programme for the poorest and old age allowance.
Some 72 per cent recipients of the secondary school stipends in the four districts are non-poor, said the report.
Nearly 68 per cent old age allowance recipients are non-poor while 64 per cent of primary school stipends and 59 per cent of maternity allowance beneficiaries are non-poor, it said.
Nearly half of the beneficiaries of the programme for generating employment for ultra-poor are non-poor, said the study.
Many potential beneficiaries of the social safety programmes such as maternity and old age allowances do not know when and how to get the assistance, it found.
Those having good relations with union parishad chairmen or members or their secretaries are always ahead in applying for the assistances, it said.
The guidelines for selecting 30 per cent new female recipients and 20 per cent new male recipients every year for each class for school stipends are largely ignored.
The local representatives mostly avoid holding meetings that are supposed to be held for selecting social safety net beneficiaries.
Allegations of irregularities in selecting maternity and old age allowance beneficiaries are widespread with some alleging that they needed to bribe local government representatives to be eligible for the assistances.
Most of the non-poor beneficiaries of the maternity and old age allowances are selected out of political consideration, said the CPD survey.
Some guardians also need to bribe government school headmasters to get their children in the stipend programmes, according to the survey.
‘Beneficiaries are enlisted in a complex process and many chairmen and members cannot get over nepotism in completing it,’ said AB Tajul Islam, chairman, parliamentary standing committee on disaster management and relief ministry.
Many beneficiaries, who took part in the webinar from the four districts, complained that a portion of their assistances was always ‘stolen’ by chairmen and members.
They alleged that they never got full package of 30 kilograms of rice given as assistance as up to four kgs of rice were deducted from their supplies citing carrying costs.
Similarly, up to 2.5 per cent of cash assistance is deducted from the beneficiaries or they need to pay in advance to get enlisted in such assistance programmes.
The CPD study was done in association with Oxfam.
European Union’s head of delegation to Bangladesh Rensje Teerink, CPD distinguished fellows Debapriya Bhattacharya and Mustafizur Rahman and executive director Fahmida Khatun and Dhaka University development studies professor M Abu Eusuf also spoke at the webinar.