Opinion and Analysis
Social welfare system needs tight checks
Posted Thursday, October 11 2012 at 19:45
- The National Social Assistance Bill 2012 will expand the current programme which aids the elderly to include the disabled and orphans.
- However, the welfare system tends to be heavily abused in most places.
- The government should ensure that the National Social Protection Council and the National Social Assistance Fund are manned by the right people.
The government is finally moving to conform to constitutional stipulations, formulating one law after the other.
On Wednesday, Parliament passed a law which seeks to cushion the vulnerable in the society. The National Social Assistance Bill 2012 will expand the current programme which aids the elderly to include the disabled and orphans.
It is important to say here that social welfare is not everyone’s cup of tea. In essence, it represents a form of taxation to the productive population and at the microeconomic level to firms.
Many countries, notably in southern Europe, are currently suffering immensely after investing too much in such programmes. The setbacks have put a large population in the US against the system.
In an ideal world, it is better for economies to let market forces address social welfare as best as they can.
But it is clear to most policy-makers and ordinary people that the ideal is often far removed from the reality. That is the reason any civilised society has to care for its most vulnerable.
However, the welfare system tends to be heavily abused in most places. Even in countries like the UK where the system is apparently water-tight, the right wing press has had a field day exposing glaring incidents of abuse of unemployment and migrant benefits.
In Kenya, the situation is even worse. Bursaries given through the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) have been educating children of the unconscionable well-off in some instances at the expense of the poor.
While bursaries were supposed to replace public fundraisers, the poorest have at times been reduced to holding the same.
The same scam has been happening in money transfers to the elderly. There is suspicion that the provincial administration could be influencing the channelling of funds to non-deserving cases.
What we are saying is that it does not help to throw cash at problems without establishing systems.
That is why we support the establishment of the National Social Protection Council, the National Social Assistance Fund, and formulation of rules punishing misuse of the funds. The government should ensure that they are manned by the right people.
While the provincial administration cannot be wished away despite lack of constitutional clarity on the institution, we urge the system to use it advisedly.
Churches, the education administration, the youth, village elders, and other stakeholders have to be roped in to balance and make the system accountable.
That is because however deterrent rules are, crooks are willing to risk and stay a step ahead.