Civil society organisations supporting accountability in cash transfer programmes

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Helpdesk Query:

What experience is there globally of civil society organisations providing / supporting accountability mechanisms in cash transfer programmes, at national scale?


This five day rapid review looks at the experiences globally of civil society organisations providing or supporting accountability mechanisms in cash transfer programmes. Bhargava and Raha’s (2015: 12) review of civil society engagement with cash transfer programme accountability found only few studies, suggesting to them that there is a significant knowledge gap. A mixture of academic and grey literature was available.

Cash transfer programmes, like most social protection programmes, are vulnerable to fraud, errors,
corruption and misuse of funds, which undermine their achievements (Perron, 2012: 1; Bhargava and Raha, 2015: vi). Effective mechanisms for transparency, accountability and participation help minimise those in need being wrongfully excluded from programme rolls; discourages clientelism and abuse of programmes for political and private gain by state actors; contributes to programme credibility; and enables programmes to more effectively serve their intended beneficiaries (Gamba, 2016: 5; Bassett and Blanco, 2011: 1).

Latin American countries developed two types of citizen oversight mechanisms for cash transfer programmes: individual and collective mechanisms, as a way of protecting the cash transfer programmes from corruption and votecatching behaviour (Eng and Perron, 2013: 8). Collective mechanisms bring together civil society, in particular beneficiaries, with public sector representatives to ‘monitor that there are no mistakes in terms of inclusion and exclusion of beneficiaries, guarantee that the programme functions according to its initial objectives, and monitor that the cash transfers are not captured by elites or political interests, nor affected by corruption or votecatching behaviour’ (Eng and Perron, 2013: 8). However, many cash transfer programme accountability mechanisms seem to favour individual approaches rather than collective action, which can result in individual beneficiaries being less able to combat abuses of power (Hevia de la Jara, 2008; Hevia, 2010; Jones and Shaheen, 2012).

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