What YESSO is Bringing to the Table

by suleimanharuna


What YESSO is Bringing to the Table

Suleiman Haruna

For any government to succeed, it must necessarily design deliberate policies and institutions to reduce poverty and enhance inclusion, domestic income and social cohesion. In Nigeria, many such projects and interventions abound, targeting different aspects of social assistance. YESSO is one such intervention.

The Federal Government of Nigeria received financing from the International Development Association (IDA) for Youth Employment and Social Support Operation (YESSO) to support the proper coordination of social safety net projects across the country and the expansion of existing social assistance projects in partner states. Presently, these states are Bauchi, Cross River, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Niger, Kogi and Kwara. These projects are Skills for Job, Conditional Cash Transfer and Public Workfare. Discussion is ongoing with some other states. The project is to run from 2013 to 2020.

Before YESSO, many Social Safety Nets (SSN) projects have come and gone. Many have made a considerable difference, but had sustainability challenges. Others had issues with scope and size, while there were issues of duplication of responsibilities and cross servicing of beneficiaries. Indeed, the activities of many SSN could be said to be random.

YESSO was born with all these problems, and more, in mind. It was established to ensure the maximization of the benefits of a social assistance programme to the most-needy of communities, families and individuals, whether they reside in the rural or urban areas. This operation will therefore succeed because adequate preparations and shock absorbers have been put in place to ensure this.

It was discovered that most of the expenditure on social assistance is untargeted. Therefore, results and outcomes cannot be ascertained. Some project benefits end up with the wrong beneficiaries, in many cases, people who are not even poor, who see these benefits as largess. There was therefore the need to come up with a credible beneficiary selection process that would lead to the selection of people who are in genuine need of help. YESSO came up with a Community Based Targeting (CBT) process, where communities themselves choose which family and which individuals are the poorest and should form the first line of support. The communities themselves are chosen through an equitable geographic targeting process, which reflects an even spread among local governments in the states that are identified as poor by the National Poverty Map.

YESSO also provides a sequenced, ordered, effective and efficient process of data generation, processing, archiving, referencing and mining not just for its own use, but for use by other interested bodies. It also provides for easy tracking of beneficiaries and avoids double dipping – a process where an individual enjoys benefits from more than one support basket.

The operation, through its effective processes, is sure to revamp existing SSN interventions for better efficiency and effectiveness. This would take place through spot checks, monitoring, training, best practice references, and even study tours. In fact from the readiness and effectiveness visits of the World Bank and FOCU staff to states, compliance to laid down procedures was insisted upon and quality assured. This also breeds synchrony and peer review among all SSN interventions and programmes.

In order to ensure that the bulk of the project funds reach their target, YESSO was domiciled in existing government agencies, which have similar responsibilities. This is the same for the Federal Operations Coordinating Unit, which is domiciled in the PIU of the Graduate Internship Scheme in the Federal Ministry of Finance. GIS has the semblance of Skills for Job, one of the components of YESSO. The same obtains in all partner states. Using this system, savings are made on office accommodation, staffing and some ancillary costs.

The process of approval of any state into YESSO is the existence of one or more of S4J, PWF and/or CCT. The project must be fully active, with MDAs running them, with appropriate staffing and a budget line, which is being funded annually. The state must be ready to also establish the SOCU (State Operations Coordinating Unit), which will superintend the relevant MDAs and monitor compliance and progress.

The fact that most YESSO beneficiaries live in remote rural areas and are unbanked, leaves most projects with cash payment as the only option to settle the stipends of beneficiaries. In many cases, the money is tampered with by people who ordinarily should not have access to them. In the spirit of financial inclusion, therefore, and to ensure that beneficiaries have timely access and complete control of their funds, an enhanced and transparent payment delivery system has been developed. Besides the stipends, this system will expose beneficiaries to other aspects of financial inclusion like cash transfers and payments.

 

YESSO has set the pace with the development of the Single Register (SR) of beneficiaries, which is open to sharing by interested SSN mandate organizations. This register is unique in many ways; it was generated by the community, entered and secured under the strictest conditions. Therefore, in order to ensure its credibility, an efficient Management Information System has been developed and armed with a Data Management Protocol. This protocol will also regulate access and provide enhanced tracking processes.

In its tradition, YESSO has developed generic manuals for operations, Financial Management, M&E, CBT/SR and others for partner states to study and adapt for their use, reflecting their peculiarities and ensuring ownership. A task team of social protection specialists from the World Bank are always at hand to provide technical support both to FOCU and SOCU with a view to addressing challenges and grey areas. The project has also made provision for a Federal Operations Steering Committee (FOSC) made up of representatives of SP related MDAs to among other things provide overall guidance and oversight through implementation.

In conclusion, YESSO has proffered the need for a National Social Protection Policy to institutionalize a standard for social protection packages and serve as a guide to all operators in the country. The document was produced in collaboration with all stakeholders and is being finalized by the National Planning Commission for onward processing to the National Assembly. With the new policy, Social safety nets programmes are no longer seen as giving handouts to the poor, but are to be administered as an investment in human capital and an empowerment tool that will yield better human capital for the country. This would be the culmination of the coordination bit of the YESSO mandate.

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