Pakistan arrests suspects over digital ID fraud in floods cash relief program
There are already reports of fraud related to the distribution of relief funds to victims of recent flooding in Pakistan through digital identity, and they government has vowed to pick up the matter head on.
Already, some persons suspected to be involved in making illegal deductions from amounts due to recipients have been arrested and the money recovered, Dawn reports.
According to the Minister for Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Shazia Marri, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has been mandated to lead investigations into the complaints from some beneficiaries of the aid program who say that their money was slashed inexplicably.
Around 33 million people are said to have been affected by the floods with many of them losing their homes.
About $103 million was recently disbursed by the Pakistani government as relief assistance to thousands of flood victims under the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) which allows beneficiaries to receive cash intervention using their biometric ID card, the CNIC.
Speaking during a recent press conference, Marri said 48 cases of fund deductions have been reported in Sindh and that about 8 to 10 cases of cyber fraud have also been noted since the cash assistance is distributed using the digital ID system.
BISP officials and agents are accused of reducing Rs3,000 (approximately US$12) as service fee from the Rs25,000 ($105) each beneficiary receives from government.
Marri said the deductions are illegal, warning that any such act in the future will be treated with the severity it deserves.
The minister also spoke about other measures being taken by the government to ensure that the floods are contained, including support being received from some international organizations such as the World Bank, the United Nations, the Asian Development Bank, and the World Food Program.
According to Marri, Rs25.49 billion (over $105 million) has already been handed to beneficiaries from 1.12 million affected families.
BISP fraud is not new in Pakistan. In July this year, a parliamentary standing committee called for action against some public servants who were accused of illegally benefiting from the welfare funds.
In 2020, many public officers were relied of their functions over a BISP scam, while the FIA undertook to investigate over 2,700 suspects in the matter, according to The Express Tribune.