Photo: World Bank
Technologies can help overcome or minimize problems related to managing and reaching clients who are geographically widespread. As the core business of social security organizations is collecting contributions and paying benefits, this is a fundamental problem for many institutions. Entries for the Good Practice Award for Africa indicate that social security organizations are increasingly and successfully deploying alternative means to collect and record contributions, pay benefits, reduce administrative costs and minimize fraud and abuse of social security schemes.
Improvements in contribution collection
Since December 2009, employers in Cameroon can make declarations electronically to the National Social Insurance Fund (NSIF). In Algeria, the National Fund for Paid Leave and Weather-related Layoffs in the Construction, Public Works and Hydraulics Industries introduced its electronic platform from January 2010 to allow users to make and consult declarations of salaries and contributions online. The Swaziland National Provident Fund introduced a web system in July of 2010 to collect contributions electronically from employers and to provide members with an easy way of accessing information regarding their contributions.
In March last year, the National Pension and Social Insurance Fund (NPSIF) of Tunisia replaced its previous system of managing revenue from employers with a new system based on maintaining and monitoring an individual account for each insured person. This system has allowed the Fund to obtain payroll data monthly for 70 per cent of all active insured persons. Detailed records of contributions deducted and paid, corresponding periods and data on the insured person's administrative and financial status can now all be consulted in real time.
The Ministry of Social Security, National Solidarity and Reform Institutions of Mauritius made it mandatory in 2001 for employers with more than 50 employees to file contribution returns and make payments electronically each month. Currently 93 per cent of targeted employers file returns and make payments online and the Ministry is working on how to extend the online system to all remaining employers. Efficiencies achieved include the reduction from 35 to only seven officers to process 77.3 per cent of employees’ records. Payments are now made directly to the fund’s account without transiting through the cashier’s office, thereby increasing the interest on revenue.
Improvements in client services
Social security organizations must provide services to members in rural as well as urban locations. Mobile telephony, which is already widely used and increasing rapidly in Africa, as well as other electronic technology and social media, offer alternative methods of delivery that can help overcome geographical and infrastructure constraints. In the last two years, the Parastatal Pensions Fund (PPF) of the United Republic of Tanzania and the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) of Uganda introduced the possibility for members to access their contribution balances online and by SMS.
The National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) of Mauritania has, in partnership with the Mauritanian Postal System, telecommunication operators and the University of Aix-Marseille, used SMS since September 2011 to reimburse its members. The NSSF issues 46 per cent of contribution statements electronically, and on average 4,041 clients access their statements daily through electronic channels. Feedback from NSSF members indicates that they consider services through electronic channels to be quicker, cheaper, convenient, and customer-friendly. Thanks to the TAARIFA system in the United Republic of Tanzania, PPF members have access to services 24 hours a day, seven days a week, regardless of their geographical location.
In Ghana, the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) introduced its New Business Process in 2010 to ensure that it can issue complete and accurate statements of account to contributors. New software, the Enhanced-Branch Operating System (E-BOS), was an important element of the New Business Process and now about 98 per cent of the accounts of all contributors are credited by the end of the month and the quality of contribution data has improved.
ICT has been used also to improve the payment of benefits. In Côte d’Ivoire, the Social Insurance Institute – National Social Insurance Fund (SII-NSIF) has been using a system called Citidirect since 2008 to streamline and enhance security and pay social benefits to members’ accounts in real-time through the banking system. This has resulted in a reduction in transaction costs per insured member from 1,300 CFA francs BCEAO (XOF) to 300 XOF and achieved savings of more than 240 million XOF a year. The NSSF in Uganda introduced online applications for benefits and instituted electronic handling of the claims process. These, together with other procedural changes, have turned around the benefits processing time in the NSSF from 105 days in 2009 to 18 days in 2011.
The Collective Scheme for Retirement Allowances (CSRA) of Morocco introduced online services to the public in 2006. These services are underpinned by a transactional web server providing the same services as a real front office. More than 60 per cent of CSRA’s clients now use the Web for their transactions and the submission of claims.
In Egypt, the Government Sector Insurance Fund adopted another approach to improving services to a geographically spread clientele. In May 2009 it opened a call centre, the operations of which are underpinned by ICT systems, including the use of computerized databases of laws and regulations as references for employees. The NSSF in Uganda, as part of its electronic service delivery strategy, also introduced a call centre with a toll-free line specifically to reply to member’s queries.
Another innovation in improving the quality of client services in Africa is the introduction of a smart card (CHIFA) by the Algerian National Social Insurance Fund for Employees. Relying on sophisticated system architecture, the CHIFA card was initially targeted at pensioners and the chronically ill, was gradually extended to the disabled and the indigent in State care, then finally to the working insured.
Improvements in administrative efficiency
ICT is being employed effectively in organizations to overhaul administrative processes and help boost efficiency. The National Social Insurance Institute of Cape Verde started a project in early 2009 to digitize paper documents and simplify and automate the workflow to increase efficiency, accessibility and security. Over 90 per cent of formerly manual processes have been automated, resulting in a reduction in the average reimbursement time to pharmacies from anything up to 75 days to just one or two days.
Since 2003, the CSRA of Morocco has been employing a platform of products to simplify its administrative work: Electronic management of documents, scanning of documents, Business to Business and the digital recording, indexing and storing of all incoming mail. This has permitted a workload increase of more than 70 per cent to be absorbed with an increase of less than 15 per cent in staff while the overall satisfaction rate of clients has risen to above 80 per cent. The Client Relationship Management (CRM) system has reduced the average time to deal with complaints from 15 to 5 days.
In Tunisia, the NPSIF is automating its business processes and gradually integrating all IT applications into its electronic records management (ERM) system. Members no longer need to queue to have their identities properly verified and claims turn-around time has improved to an average of three days.
The NSIF in Cameroon developed an IT system to monitor and report on the implementation of decisions taken at regular management meetings. Since its introduction in July 2010 they report that information-sharing between staff has increased, decision-making in terms of quality and relevance has improved, and all departments at headquarters have immediate access to information from their local offices.
Another innovation to boost internal efficiency adopted by the SII-NSIF in Côte d’Ivoire was the introduction of a service desk to handle any IT problems. As the structure of the SII-NSIF is highly decentralized, delays in resolving these problems resulted in excessive difficulties in handling benefit claims, failure to comply with accounting procedures, and periods of inactivity or lack of productivity of staff. Since the replacement in the latter half of 2009 of the manual system of handling IT queries, request handling times have improved to around 48 hours and the numbers of queries has dropped considerably to an average of 25 per week.
Minimizing fraud and abuse
Some organizations, recognizing that fraud and abuse can threaten scheme sustainability in the same way as poor compliance does, have introduced countermeasures to limit this risk. The NSIF in Cameroon introduced processes to verify the authenticity of documents required for family benefit claims. Their first assessment, conducted two years after the project began in 2009, showed that it had identified 32,000 children who were irregular beneficiaries, and achieved total savings of 2,500,000,000 CFA francs BEAC (XAF). The Swaziland National Provident Fund also successfully negotiated access to the Government population register to minimize the risk of paying fraudulent claimants by introducing an identity verification system, connected to the Government population register, using thumbprints.
As these and other examples confirm, ICT is increasingly facilitating new and innovative ways for social security organizations to provide benefits and customer services. Effective use of technology can also improve the levels of service quality and client satisfaction in social security schemes, and thereby contribute to strengthening the reputation and public confidence in institutions. And although ICT implies important investments at the outset, successful implementation of projects can lead to important cost savings in the long-term, to the benefit of all stakeholders.
These and other good practices implemented by ISSA member organizations can be consulted in the ISSA’s Good Practice database www.issa.int/goodpractices >>