May defends Pounds 300 mln aid for Pakistan

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British prime minister to visit Donald Trump in spring

ISLAMABAD, Jan 5 (APP): The Prime Minister of United Kingdom and
first Lord of the Treasury Theresa May has defended spending Pounds 300 million of overseas aid on cash handouts to Pakistani families despite allegations of corruption within the programme, The Times reported.
Quoting the spokeswoman of May, the Newspaper said the scheme, which provides debit cards preloaded with cash, was an efficient way to direct support to Pakistan’s poorest families.
British taxpayers have paid Pounds 177 mln into the Benazir Income
Support Programme (BISP), which offers mainly illiterate families about Pounds 9 a month. A further Pounds 123 mln has been committed. The programme is mostly funded by the Pakistani government.
Mrs May’s spokeswoman said that there were “robust” systems in place
to protect against fraud after it was alleged that seven BISP employees had been suspended on corruption charges and 125,714 suspicious accounts had been frozen.
Cash transfers are “focused on making sure that aid is targeted at
those who need it, when they need it,” she said, adding that the scheme’s effectiveness had been “recognised by the public accounts committee and the National Audit Office”.
In 2011 the audit office found that the transfers delivered `clear and
immediate benefits’ but warned that the Department for International Development (DFID) had not optimised value for money. More than 9.3 million people in 14 countries have received cash payments funded by Britain since 2010.
In Pakistan, families living on less than Pounds 47 per month
receive stipends worth Pounds 9 a month “to meet essential daily needs”. Families can also collect Pounds 1.50 per month for each child who attends school.
Britain funds 7 percent of the payments, although in previous
years the contribution has been nearly 20 percent. Most beneficiaries receive cards that are regularly topped up with cash that they can withdraw or use in shops.
A DFID spokeswoman said that some data-entry errors had caused
accounts to be suspended and that several staff had been called in to explain the mistakes. She said that biometric payments in Pakistan had made the programme “one of the most secure cash transfers in the world”, adding that “taxpayers can be sure that the help they provide goes to the less fortunate, not those abusing the system. We have a zero-tolerance approach to fraud and corruption”.