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Treasury delays Sh2,000 old people cash transfer

Citizens above the age of 70 are entitled to a
Citizens above the age of 70 are entitled to a Sh2,000 per month allowance. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Senior citizens have not received their bi-monthly stipend from the State Department of Social Protection since September, putting the National Treasury on the spot over the late remittances.

Citizens above the age of 70 are entitled to a Sh2,000 per month allowance, which is paid every two months in a Sh4,000 lump sum under a cash transfer scheme launched last year at the height of the General Election campaigns.

The stipend, considered a non-contributory social pension for the elderly, is implemented by the Ministry of East African Community, Labour and Social Protection.

"The last payment came in September and we are yet to receive any explanation regarding the delays," said a 77-year-old who requested for anonymity fearing retribution. He said his bank had told him there was a delay from the government and that it had no information on when the cash would hit his account.

Beneficiaries are required to present themselves physically to the bank to collect the cash.

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"This thing (the registration card) is not beneficial to me since it is loaded with frustrations that can send someone to an early grave. I spent my Christmas without a coin in my pocket," he said.

Senior citizens were also promised free National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) outpatient cover but the National Treasury is yet to release cash for payment of the monthly premiums.

Hospitals have been turning away the senior citizens, who were automatically registered under the NHIF Inua Jamii 70+ programme.

Senior citizens were also promised free NHIF Super cover, which pays up to 80 percent of a member’s medical bills, including for CT scans, surgery, blood transfusion and treatment for fractures.

The Social Protection Department, which is mandated to oversee implementation of the enhanced Older Persons Cash Transfer (OPCT), says the scheme currently covers 523,000 people.

The bi-monthly stipend is intended to ease suffering of the senior citizens through enhancing their purchasing power, thus reducing poverty levels.

Social Protection principal secretary Nelson Marwa said the last payment was made in September for the July-August cycle.

"The delay is linked to migration to the account-based model where funds come through beneficiaries’ bank accounts from the old card-based system," he said.

Transition to the new system known as ‘Choice Model’ started in November. It means the registered beneficiaries can access their stipend from four accredited banks; Co-operative, Equity, KCB and Post Bank.

"The migration is expected to conclude end of this month after which we will do a payroll for the 1.23 million beneficiaries that include OPCT, persons with severe disabilities and orphans and vulnerable children," said Mr Marwa.

Once the transition is completed, beneficiaries will receive a lump sum of Sh8,000 for the two missed payment cycles.

Mr Marwa said only the Ministry of Health could explain why the senior citizens were being turned away from accredited health facilities without treatment.

The Ministry of Health is supposed to request the National Treasury for allocation of cash for the NHIF cover.

The Treasury allocated Sh6.7 billion to kick-start the programme in January 2018, covering the first half of the year to June. The scheme under the Inua Jamii plan was a key plank of the Jubilee election campaign promises.

The ‘Inua Jamii 70 years and above cash transfer programme’ is an enhancement of the previous cash transfer initiated in 2012 targeting individuals aged above 65 and living in extreme poverty.

"Challenges faced in the course of implementation of the programme include inadequate funding and flow of funds which has affected predictability and regularity of payments," said Mr Marwa.

Better health care has seen life expectancy in the country rise although majority of the elderly people lack pension plans.

It gets worse if they live in urban areas given that the social setup of relying on relatives is slowly collapsing.

The World Health Organisation report of 2015 estimates life expectancy in Kenya at 63 years. When the cash transfer programme for those aged above 65 was introduced in 2012, the plan was to ensure that the country’s senior citizens do not slide into extreme poverty, hunger and consequently, premature death.

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