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DSWD assures ‘no irregularity’ on engagement with FSPs for SAP distribution

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) assured the public that it engaged the services of different Financial Service Providers (FSPs) with proper credentials for the distribution of the second tranche emergency subsidy of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP).

With the guidance and technical assistance of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), being the central monetary authority of the Philippines which oversees the payment and settlement systems in the country and having the expertise on policies and regulatory environment for financial inclusion and digital payments, the Department engaged six FSPs which are Gcash, Paymaya, Robinsons Bank, Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC), Starpay and Unionbank.

In identifying the qualified FSPs, the DSWD required the submission of their Securities and Exchange Commission Registration, BSP Certification, National Privacy Commission Registration, and Secretary’s Certificate allowing the FSP, and its representative, to transact with DSWD. Among the general criteria used were experience, reach and technical capabilities; corporate capability; and acquiescence to the request to waive the service or transaction fee in order to free the government from any cost.

On the allocation of beneficiaries per FSP, primary consideration was given to the following: (1) presence of payout partners to ensure ease and ability to cash out by beneficiaries balanced with other considerations; (2) business model limitations such as smartphone only deployments were controlled in these areas with other options in light of the timeline required in the disbursement; (3) tie-ups with LGUs by the EMI/FSPs were also considered; (4) historical experience in commercial roll out; and (5) type of cash out points that may contribute to ensuring liquidity/availability of cash.

It was discovered, however, that over 70% of SAP beneficiaries based on actual names listed by LGUs have invalid or no mobile phone numbers/smartphone. Hence, the DSWD recalibrated the allocation and only two of the six FSPs signified their capability of distributing the financial assistance using other means. These were the RCBC and Starpay, which conducted digital and direct payouts, simultaneously.

It can be recalled, however, that the agency terminated the services of the FSPs in April 2021. The FSPs, including Starpay, liquidated the remaining budget that they received and refunded the amount for the unserved beneficiaries to the DSWD.

The Starpay refunded about P8.2 billion due to mistakes in information or data quality issues, and/or inactive accounts of beneficiaries or those accounts with no activities within a period of 90 days from crediting. The Department then opted to conduct manual payouts for the unserved 2nd tranche beneficiaries.

Lastly, the DSWD emphasized that all funds provided to the FSPs are all accounted for and that there are no “missing” funds. All aid distributed is supported by liquidation reports that can be shared, if necessary in the proper forum.

The DSWD emphasized that its engagement with the FSPs was above board and in accordance with the existing government accounting rules and procedures.