Abra antigraft NGO says CCT works but far from perfect
BAGUIO CITY—The antigraft group, Concerned Citizens of Abra for Good Government (CCAGG), said the government’s Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program has succeeded in serving as a “lifeboat” for poor families, which needed time to improve their livelihood, without sacrificing their children’s access to school and healthcare.
CCAGG initiated the CCT Watch Project to evaluate the program’s impact on Abra beneficiaries for 2011 to 2012. The project was funded by the Partnership Transparency Fund (PTF), a United States-based organization that champions a global campaign against corruption.
“One of the goals of the program is to provide a lifeboat to the poor so they can bolt themselves out of the poverty mill. In the validation process, there are indicators that this goal will be achieved, not 100 percent but with significance,” the CCAGG’s CCT Watch terminal report said.
The CCT was launched in 2008 in Abra. CCAGG said Abra had the most number of poor families and individuals in the Cordillera, with 15,182 families or 94,088 individuals living below the poverty line.
“[This represents] more than a quarter or 27.6 percent of all poor families in the Cordillera,” it said.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said 4,379 families in Abra would graduate from the five-year program at the end of the year.
The CCT has improved the health and school performance of their children, who managed to stay in school 85 percent of the school term, and has allowed their parents the breathing space to find new jobs or develop new skills for work, according to the CCAGG report.
However, CCAGG found weaknesses in the program that needed to be addressed.
The program issues cash grants for health and nutrition (P500 monthly) and for education (P300 monthly for a child; or a maximum of P900 monthly for three children).
A family, with three qualified children, can receive a maximum monthly subsidy of P1,400 for as long as they comply with conditions, among them making sure the children go to school and are examined regularly by government doctors.
But CCAGG said it failed to take into account the poor condition of some schools and health centers, which could impact on the services these offer to beneficiary children.
CCAGG also observed that the program’s design left out “poor households without children, poor households with children above 14 years of age, elderly poor households, and poor households with disabled family members [who represent] a big chunk of the statistics of poor households.”
CCAGG checked 16,572 beneficiaries (or a total of 4,616 households) in 12 Abra towns.
The CCAGG report said the group pursued the audit after the program was widely criticized as a dole-out.
“Many are questioning what right CCT beneficiaries have to be given special attention and to be receiving P1,400 for 10 months every year—without breaking [a sweat]—from a loan which all Filipinos will be paying… . Another criticism is that the program encourages indolence and that the cash grants have not been used to support the education and health of children and the mothers as intended in the program,” the CCAGG report said.
As a program that relies on a “carrot-and-stick” (incentives and disincentives) approach, the government’s CCT program works for Abra, CCAGG said.
Apart from improved school attendance, many of the Abra children of CCT beneficiaries performed well enough to rank in the top 10 students of their respective classes, the group said.
It said the cash grants were spent on school supplies, the children’s allowances and the occasional school fees. In some cases, Abra beneficiaries bought food and medicine.
Some beneficiaries used their stipends to repair their houses or to install electricity, CCAGG said. A few used the money as capital for developing vegetable gardens or to raise poultry and swine.
The beneficiaries’ self-esteem also improved, CCAGG said, because of a unique feature called “Family Development Sessions.” It said CCT households have been participating in community activities, like riprapping, construction of pathways and fixing community water systems.
“They learned how to mingle with people. Before, they were just passive onlookers,” the report said.
Even community relationships changed.
“CCT had eased the burden of financial support for the schooling of their children. When needed, it is now easy for beneficiaries to borrow money from neighbors during difficult times because they know that they will be receiving their cash grant in the near future,” CCAGG said.
But the program is far from perfect, the group said.
Stories about a few beneficiaries, whose household elders became lazy because of the stipends, surfaced in the towns of Boliney, Tubo, La Paz and Malibcong.
CCAGG also observed cases where the stipends came late or were incomplete, suggesting that a better delivery system must be set up immediately.