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ISLAMABAD: The federal government authorities claim they have made 'cost-effective changes' and developed institutional infrastructure to end government's reliance on non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the Ehsaas Waseela-e-Taleem Programme that is being expanded across the country, a conditional cash transfer initiative for primary school children.

The end-to-end digitisation of a number of processes was previously managed manually but now software applications have been developed which are used by staff to register children and monitor compliance, a statement from Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Division (PASSD) said.

Secondly, cost-effective changes and institutional infrastructure were developed to expand this nationwide and reliance on NGOs was eliminated, the statement added. Because of this, operational cost has been reduced from 8 per cent to 3 per cent, it said.

In the past, the programme encountered a number of challenges including high administrative cost, weak compliance monitoring system, low stipend amount and high error and fraud due to a paper-based approach but over the last year-and-a-half, a comprehensive and deep-rooted reform was designed and deployed as a result of which far reaching changes have been made in the programme, the statement said.

The stipend given to children has been modified as per Ehsaas' new stipend policy, PASSD statement said adding that children of poorest families will now be provided conditional cash grants of Rs1,500 for boy child and Rs2,000 per quarter for girl child on attainment of 70 per cent attendance in school.

The programme is being expanded to all districts of the country, the statement said. Its overall budget is Rs8 billion this year.

"Education conditional cash transfers are an important pillar of Ehsaas and are included in the Ehsaas framework as 'Education Conditional Cash Transfers'. Education conditional cash transfers serve the dual purpose of socially assisting vulnerable households and at the same time reduce the number of out of school children, which is an important outcome for Pakistan given that there are 19.1 million out-of-school children in the country," the statement said.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020