Partner: Fiji Department of Social Welfare and Westpac Banking Corporation
Target: 24,000 welfare recipients
Up until January 2011, it was a common occurrence in Fiji to see depressingly long queues of people waiting to receive social welfare cash payment. The 20,000+ recipients would have to trek many hours from the poorly connected interior each month to redeem their cash vouchers at designated social welfare offices and post office branches. This can cost them up to FJ$ 10-20 (US$6 – $12), or 15-30% of their modest allowance on travel.
In 2011, PFIP engaged with the Department of Social Welfare to digitize social welfare payments for the 24,000 low-income clients, mostly women and people who suffer from a range of disability.
A financial service provider was needed which can provide a savings-based electronic account which will enable the efficient transfer of the social welfare payment on a monthly basis and that will enable recipients to have access to service points to either encash or transact using their bank cards.
With the financial support from the Australian Aid, PFIP assisted the DSW to develop the initial background studies, cost benefit analysis, tender process, selection of a Financial Services provider and the national rollout.
One of the main objectives of the project was to promote financial inclusion and access to financial services to those who are most vulnerable. Prior to the transition, 94% of those receiving payments were unbanked and 62% of all recipients were women. Welfare recipients now have access to a basic transaction account including access to an ATM debit card. There are no maintenance fees on the account, no minimum balance and 10 free monthly transactions from ATM’s or EFTPOS merchants.
The project also delivered financial savings and efficiency gains for the DSW. The transition freed up 4 months of staff time associated with processing the old cash vouchers. This equated to a saving of $158,000 in direct costs. The transition also removed approximately 2,000 deceased, duplicate and fraudulent clients from the system.
Transitioning un-banked social welfare recipients into the formal financial system is seen as a positive step towards greater financial inclusion in Fiji and building the financial capability of those on no/low incomes.
Westpac Bank won a competitive bidding process to manage the payments and provide clients financial literacy training. The 24,000 potential clients also represented a significant and immediate increase in Westpac’s client base.
This was the first large scale digitization of G2P social welfare payments of its kind in the Pacific and became a model for the region.