The Ministry of Social Services and Urban Development and its Department of Social Services, moved one step closer to streamlining and digitizing its work “for the greater convenience and efficiency of both its internal and external clients” with the announcement of the June 2021 launch of its Social Protection Management Information System (ProMIS) portal.
The launch was scheduled for June 1, 2021, in New Providence and will be “fully launched throughout Grand Bahama and the Family Islands within two months thereafter.” Minister of Social Services and Urban Development the Hon. Frankie Campbell made the announcement during a Press Conference held in the Conference Room of the Ministry of Public Works, Aventura Plaza, University Drive and Bethel Avenue. Minister Campbell was accompanied by Minister of State for Finance and for Grand Bahama, Senator the Hon. James Kwasi Thompson.
The Social Services Minister said the introduction and implementation of ProMIS will result in a standardized process for the delivery of social assistance that builds upon the existing operations of social assistance programmes at the national level.
Methods of payments have also expanded out of the desire to reduce the expenses often borne by beneficiaries seeking access to social assistance (such as transportation, bank commission charges and time, etcetera), while ensuring reliability, regularity and efficiency.
“Our Social Protection Management Information System (ProMIS) is an e-Government system that electronically facilitates all steps related to the management of social assistance, including the application, identification of eligibility, disbursement of funds, and auditing. ProMIS integrates data from public and private sector institutions and provides 13 web-based services in one easily accessible online portal,” Minister Campbell said.
“Through the development of ProMIS, the previously paper-based social assistance processes were all able to be standardized, integrated and converted into an electronic system. ProMIS has the potential to tremendously transform the social service system,” Minister Campbell added.
Applicants must meet certain criteria when applying for some types of assistance. As The Bahamas does not currently have a means of measuring income, ProMIS utilizes Proxy-Means Testing which was developed to generate a score for applicants based on fairly easy to observe characteristics of a household, such as the location and quality of the dwelling, ownership of durable goods, demographic structure of the household, and the education of adults. Scores are composite indices that reflect welfare levels.
Three methods are used for Food Assistance payments under ProMIS, among them, the social assistance card, a Bank of the Bahamas Pre-Paid Card, which was launched in 2014 with the cooperation of the Bank of The Bahamas (BOB) for applicants receiving ongoing benefits. Approximately 7,000 persons are currently receiving their assistance through that means. The cards are Pre-paid, debit cards that allow beneficiaries to pay for their groceries from local grocery stores and wholesalers. They cannot be used online, at ATMs or at stores that are not designated as grocery stores.
The second means is the option of the paper coupon, generated by ProMIS with a unique QR Code. The paper coupons are redeemable at specified grocery stores. This option is particularly used by the elderly and persons with disabilities as it allows them to receive their assistance payments in a more, timely, manner and without any expense being incurred by persons in this group.
“And let me pause to point out that all during this pandemic, we have ensured that our elderly, and our persons with disabilities had their assistance vouchers delivered to their homes,” Minister Campbell said.
The third method of payment is by digital Food Voucher via Kanoo or Mobile Assist. Via this method, beneficiaries can access the social assistance payments credited to their accounts anytime they wish from their mobile phones.
“For rental assistance, fully digital payments are made directly into the recipients, that is, landlord’s accounts, at financial services providers such as OMNI or Cash N’ Go. For Burial, Financial and Utility assistance, money is paid directly to the vendor, while Uniform Assistance is paid via digital wallet,” Minister Campbell said.
“It should be noted that the payment methods detailed above, are intended to help reduce the expenses often [borne] by beneficiaries in seeking access to social assistance – such as transportation, bank commission charges and time, etcetera – while ensuring reliability, regularity and efficiency.”
Bahamas Information Services
By Matt Maura