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Conditional cash transfers in Latin America: promoting equality through transparency and accountability

In the past decades, Latin America has seen an explosion of government social spending targeting human development for the region’s poorest citizens. Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programmes, which link cash payments to the provision of education and health care, have been widely adopted. Given that these programmes are targeting families living in extreme conditions of vulnerability, it is essential that they are designed and implemented in a way that ensures that the programme funds get to the right people, for the right purposes and at the right time, free of political abuse or corruption. Unfortunately, as our regional report indicates, these social programmes can sometimes lack effective transparency, accountability and participation mechanisms. At best, this can lead to lack of understanding about benefit delivery and conditions, and a programme that is less responsive to the actual needs of intended beneficiaries. At worst, can mean the abuse of power for political or private gain by politicians and other programme stakeholders, culminating in extortion, clientelism, or the loss of benefits by those most in need. This report provides a set of evidence-based findings regarding common weaknesses found in the integrity mechanisms of selected CCT programmes in Latin America along with several recommendations for ensuring that programmes in the future operate with the most effective standards of transparency and accountability, especially accountability to those most in need – the intended beneficiaries.