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The Seven Deadly Sins in Conditional Cash Transfer Programs

By Dr. Vinay Bhargava


According to a recent World Bank study, the number of countries with Conditional Cash Transfer Programs (CCTPs) has increased from 27 in 2008 to 53 in 2013. CCTPs are government programs that provide cash to participants upon their fulfillment of a set of conditions or co-responsibilities.

The growing popularity of CCTPs is due to their proven effectiveness in reducing poverty as noted by the same World Bank study. However, CCTP achievements are often undermined by integrity risks due to fraud, errors, and corruption.

What are the commonly found integrity risks in CCTPs? I researched this question as part of a paper that I recently wrote as part of a GPSA funded “Guarding the Integrity of the Conditional Cash Transfer Program (CCTP) project in the Philippines”. The paper called “Social Accountability Approaches in Enhancing Integrity of Conditional Cash Transfer Programs” is available for comments and contributions (click here to access it).

CCTVinay2.jpgThe paper reviewed several international studies of control and accountability mechanisms in CCTPs covering Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and the Philippines. The review revealed seven common integrity risks, or Seven Deadly Sins.

1) Insufficient access to information. Key to CCTP accountability efforts is the timely flow of information from provider to consumer. This enables critical feedback from target communities to the program administrators. Unfortunately, many CCTPs do not provide relevant and sufficient information, causing them to commit the first sin and set the stage for weak transparency and accountability.

2) Targeting errors. High inclusion (non-poor receiving CCT benefits) and exclusion errors (poor not included in the CCTP) are caused by errors, fraud and corruption. This sin results in waste of scarce public resources when ineligible households are included and deny opportunities to exit poverty when the poor are excluded.

3) Noncompliance with CCTP conditions. Households are often unable to meet compliance requirements due to prevailing cultural, linguistic, and gender factors, unavailable services, and excessive staff case loads, as well as, inaccurate reporting, processing delays/errors and other bureaucratic mistakes. The consequences are that payments are delayed or denied undermining the benefits from human capital investments and increased household consumption.

4) Payment Errors. Irregular payments, inaccurate payments and interrupted payments, usually caused by the failure of information technology (IT) systems, frequently plague many CCTPs, They have serious consequences as these payments are a lifeboat for many poor households. When that lifeboat sinks, the household experiences severe stresses and increases the risk of slipping back in poverty.

5) Inefficiencies in grievance resolution processes. These weaknesses cause the deterioration of trust and satisfaction in CCTP and the government at large.

6) Inadequate access and/or quality of services. Typically, CCTPs have conditions related to household compliance with school attendance and participation in specified nutrition and health programs. Participating in these programs as required by the CCTPs is not enough. The impact of such services depends on their accessibility and quality and when these fall short impact of CCTPs is undermined.

7) Exit. There often remains a lack of clarity and/or transparency on when and how beneficiaries ‘graduate.’ The consequence of weaknesses in this functional area is the inefficient use of public resources. The alternative best practice is to deliver graduating beneficiaries into other productive avenues (e.g. jobs, higher education, healthy family education programs, etc.) so that intergenerational transmission of poverty is eliminated.

How widely these seven sins are prevalent and how effective are the control and accountability systems? My review of the studies found that while all CCTPs have state led control and accountability mechanisms, none are fully effective in mitigating these risks. Fraud, errors and corruption remain problematic.

This prompts the question, “what more can be done?” Can social accountability interventions provide solutions? Is so where have they been used? How have they been used? What were the enabling factors to promote use of social accountability in CCTPs? Do they work? What evidences are available to show impact of social accountability interventions in improving integrity of CCTPs? These are some of the questions we are researching

If you or your organization have engaged in social accountability in CCTPs we would be grateful to receive and 1-2 pages information on what was done (objectives and activities) in your project and, key findings and results. Please also provide us information on social accountability work being done by other CSOs. Your contributions will be immensely helpful and we will do our best to include/show case them in the paper as it is finalized. Please post your comments on this blog and send your information/inputs to [email protected] no later than May 15, 2015. Thank you.


VinayDr. Vinay Bhargava
Chief Technical Adviser, Partnership for Transparency Fund

Dr. Vinay Bhargava is currently Chief Technical Advisor and a Board Member at an international NGO – the Partnership for Transparency Fund – which supports CSOs to promote citizen engagement for promoting government transparency, accountability and freedom from corruption ( He is former Country Director and Director International Affairs at the World Bank.
He is currently Adjunct Faculty at Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University, Washington DC, USA and is a visiting professor at the Hiroshima and Kobe Universities in Japan delivering courses international development and foreign aid management.
Vinay’s is passionate about governance and anti-corruption, international development policy and practice and Asian affairs. He pursues these interests as a volunteer, professor, consultant and author.

He can be reached at [email protected]

April 13, 2015

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