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Using Information Management for Better Social Protection in Timor-Leste

September 12, 2014


Timor-Leste is building a social safety net to protect the most vulnerable people. One of the biggest challenges is delivering cash transfers effectively due to poor data on the beneficiaries.

Alex Baluyut/World Bank

  • Timor-Leste has developed social safety nets with a set of cash transfer programs.
  • Multiple databases are a major challenge for an efficient delivery of the social assistance.
  • The World Bank is supporting the government to merge existing databases into a single system to help make cash transfers more efficient.

Dili, Timor-Leste, September 12, 2014 – Teresinha Goncalves is 85 years old and lives with her daughter and grandchild in a remote village in Bazartete, District of Liquiça, about 50 kilometers from the nation’s capital. She grows and sells vegetables to support herself, her daughter and grandchild.

Every six months Teresinha makes a 4-hour journey from her village to the sub-district administration office to collect her pension. 

“The money I receive lightens my burden a little bit, although it is not enough to meet all our needs,” she said.

Alda Santos, 65 years old, comes from the same village as Teresinha. She is also a beneficiary of the elderly pension. She has four children who have left home, but Alda is still helping to raise her grandchildren, who are now in university. 

“We were happy to hear that the government was about to start these programs. So we went and registered as soon as we heard about it, so we could receive the fund. But it took a long time, over a year, to finally receive the money,” Alda explained.


Multiple databases a major challenge in cash transfer administration

After going through long years of conflicts, Timor-Leste is gradually emerging from the ashes of destruction to progress as a fully-fledged nation-state. Building a social safety net to protect the most vulnerable people has been a focus of the government over the last few years, and has rapidly become one of the largest budgetary expenditure items. The government, through the Ministry of Social Solidarity (MSS), introduced a set of cash transfer programs, including Bolsa da Mãe for mothers whose children are enrolled in schools in rural areas, the elderly, and disabled people.

However, the country faces major challenges in administering and implementing these social cash transfers programs. One of the biggest challenges is how to deliver cash transfers effectively due to poor data on the beneficiaries. There are cases where some of the recipients have created double identities therefore receiving cash transfers twice, while others who eligible are still waiting. 

Improving information management of programs and beneficiaries

In 2012, the World Bank and the Government of Timor-Leste signed an agreement to support the government’s effort to improve its information management system under the Social Protection Administration Project, with an estimated cost of $2 million.

Through the project, MSS will develop a management information system that will improve the implementation of the social programs by integrating the databases of three existing cash transfer programs.

“In the future, the new management information system will gradually improve the capacity of the ministry to implement core cash transfer programs in a reliable and more transparent manner by standardizing information management and strengthening management capacity,” said Bolormaa Amgaabazar, the World Bank Country Representative.

The MSS is currently developing a comprehensive management information system covering main social assistance programs aimed to effectively manage and maintain the data of all programs and beneficiaries. The new system will allow cross-checks and updates, monitoring transactions, facilitating payments, allowing grievance management and generating reports on program implementation.

The project places strong emphasis on developing skills, capability, and expertise to ensure that staff at the ministry are able to maintain, update, and modify the database as required

“What the MSS is trying to accomplish is to have a good system where all of the existing databases can be merged and integrated. This will not only help the government better execute their objectives of serving the people, but will also improve accountability and transparency,” said Manuel da Cruz, World Bank IT Specialist.