Problems with accountability, payment delays and the risk of being robbed have for a number of years been challenges facing the multimillion-dollar TUNAJALI HIV and AIDS program, which operates in remote areas of Tanzania. .
While salary and volunteer allowance delays adversely affect program implementation there is also the security risk to TUNAJALI staff and sub-recipients, who regularly had to carry large sums of money for HIV and AIDS activities. About 65% of transactions involved banks and physical transfers to sub-recipients.
Accountability issues and the delays prompted TUNAJALI’s donor, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the U.S. President’s Emergency Fund for Aids Relief (PEPFAR), to ask the program to find a safe way of transferring money, to improve accountability and increase efficiency.
In responding to the call, TUNAJALI opted for M-Pesa mobile cash transfer, which is safe, efficient and has countrywide coverage. Deloitte Consulting Ltd, one of TUNAJALI implementers providing overall program management including grant management to recipients, entered into an agreement with Vodacom for this service.
TUNAJALI asked its all staff and sub-recipients to acquire Vodacom lines so that they could be paid through M-Pesa, Following the agreement, a wallet account of TZS350 million was opened and operates on an imprest reimbursement system the same way the program maintains petty cash. Verified payment requests have since March 2014 been debited from it, and the account is replenished as necessary.
Allowances for training, meetings and volunteers and sub-recipient staff salaries are paid through M-Pesa. “This has spared us the inconvenience of carrying large amounts of money for allowances. We used to carry up to TZS50 million,” says the TUNAJALI Senior Grants Officer, Mr. Damian Shayo.
TUNAJALI’s Director of Finance, Ms. Mkami Mahemba, says M-Pesa has ensured timely disbursements and accountability, provides sufficient audit trail, and guarantees instant liquidation of expenditure, eliminating significantly outstanding balances with recipients. “It has also reduced misuse of manpower. We previously assigned up to three people to pay allowances during training. One was for listing attendees, another counted the money, and the third paid and ensured that recipients signed against their names.”
Regional TUNAJALI grant officers upload approved payments in the system and submit scanned copies of attendance register, pay-lists and payrolls together with related supporting documentation for payments to be made. The M-Pesa Accountant at Head Office reviews and verifies these payments against the supporting documents provided and passes on to M-Pesa approval to release the payments.
“Once the transaction is completed, statement is readily available to confirm receipts and we use the same statement as retirement and captures expenditure in our accounting package,” she says.
Talking about allowances and salaries, “These are now being paid safely in one day,” says TUNAJALI’s Grants Officer in Morogoro Region, Mr. Mathias Gowelle. “It used to take us up to five days to pay people as we had to process funds from our bank in Dar es Salaam, do a telegraphic transfer to the accounts of sub-recipients, who then wrote checks, which had to mature before cash was accessed,” he adds.
Ms. Lucy Millinga, the accountant at Iringa Regional Hospital, says payment through M-Pesa has simplified her work and reduced the risk of being robbed. “I get my allowances on time, and I have never received complaints from those I serve,” she says.
Ms. Yosefa Sembeta, a midwife at Kiloka Health Centre in Morogoro Rural District, expressed her joy and satisfaction at M-Pesa usage, saying it has eliminated the risk of losing her money to pickpockets in buses.
The program has 91 sub-recipients and pays salaries and allowances totaling TZS350 million every month. A total of US$3,440,668 (TZS6,881,336,299.40) had been disbursed to sub-recipients using the new system by August 31, 2015.
TUNAJALI is implemented by Deloitte Consulting and Christian Social Services Commission (CSSC) in Njombe, Iringa, Morogoro, Dodoma and Singida regions