NSS Pays Dearly For Neglecting e-Zwich

A pilot programme to pay National Service personnel on the e-Zwich biometric card has been abandoned. The management of National Service Scheme (NSS) appears not to be interested in pursuing the programme conclusively. Following the launch of the e-Zwich programme under the previous Kufuor administration, the decision was made to pay National Service allowances through the biometric smart cards. The decision was to ensure prompt and efficient disbursement of allowances and more importantly to ensure that the monies were paid to the right beneficiaries. However, after piloting the e-Zwich payment from 2010 to 2012 under the leadership of the former NSS Boss Vincent Kuagbenu in about 17 districts with minimal hitches, the Scheme did not extend the payments to cover the entire country as was planned but strangely decided to reduce the number of districts paid via e-Zwich to just about four currently. Although it is unclear why the National Service Secretariat (NSS) failed to implement the payment of allowances on e-Zwich throughout the country, the current rot at the Secretariat tends to corroborate the suspicion that it could have been deliberate since they could not have carried out the nefarious activity with the e-Zwich system. Payment under the e-Zwich system will require that the fingerprints of every national service person would be captured. As a requirement, all fingers of a cardholder are scanned during enrolment and stored on the client card. When performing any transaction, the e-Zwich device (ATM or Point Of Sale Terminal), will demand the verification of the cardholder by comparing the fingerprint presented on the device scanner to any of those stored on the card. The e-Zwich payment system also provides an electronic audit trail, implying that every payment or deductions made on the card can be tracked and traced to the place and time it was done. This automatically will prevent a situation whereby ghost names will be created and monies paid into fictitious accounts. The Board of the National Service Scheme has asked the entire management of the scheme to proceed on leave with immediate effect. It emerged that the scheme�s Director, Alhaji Imoro Alhassan, allegedly attempted to offer GH�200,000 bribe to security officials investigating widespread corruption in the National Service Scheme. Alhaji Alhassan reportedly paid GH�100,000 in his attempt to silence investigators of the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) to conceal a GH�7.9 million financial fraud at the Scheme. The investigations became necessary following reports that a total of GH�7.9 million was paid to 22,612 non-existent national service persons in more than 100 districts in July 2014. Sources close to the Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems (GhIPSS), the Bank of Ghana subsidiary in charge of e-zwich and other payment systems, say the current fraud could not have been possible if allowances were paid on e-zwich cards. They hinted further that efforts to get the NSS to rollout the payment of allowances on e-zwich cards throughout the country after the pilot proved futile. The sources said the Scheme even reduced the number of districts that begun the pilot. According to the sources, though there were minor teething problems with the rollout such as limited active outlets to use the e-zwich card and complaints of charges on withdrawals, those issues had been largely addressed and could not be cited for the inability of the NSS to fully implement the process. Currently, student loans are paid via the e-zwich card and the number of beneficiaries keeps rising. Also government has recently started paying some beneficiaries of the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) on e-Zwich which has also saved the nation huge amounts of money. BUSINESS GUIDE is also aware of plans to pay part of public sector workers� salaries on e-Zwich. This proposal has been on the drawing board since John Kufuor�s administration and though a pilot programme has been carried out, there is little commitment to ensure its implementation, a development similar to that of the NSS.