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Digitise statutory payments – Obeng-Agyei

June 8, 2018, 11:33 a.m.

Government will not only be able to curb the many slippages in the system, but also tell the real size of the economy if it can digitise certain statutory payments by leveraging the current boom in mobile money, says Head of Vodafone Cash, Martison Obeng-Agyei.

According to him, digitising payments such as market tolls, property rates, among others, could set the tone for the next phase of digitising the country’s economy, and rope-in more people into the financial landscape while lending credence to government’s pledge to seal leakages.

“As it stands now, I still do not understand why market tolls today are paid in physical cash. You and I know the slippages we experience every year when the Auditor-General’s Report is made public; monies that have been collected cannot be traced or accounted for.

“But if we go electronic, the people in charge of collection will not be the same people in charge of the system. For example, if the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) is collecting electronic money, there is no way those figures can be changed because everybody at a certain tier of power can see the graphical user interface and be able to monitor what goes into the system; so, the AMA boss can actually sit in his office and monitor how much is coming in,” he noted.

He added that in some countries, governments have made some statutory payments mandatory through mobile money. “In that way, you can almost not do those kinds of payment without mobile money – just like they have done with the Tax Identification Number (TIN) whereby every Ghanaian above a certain age must have a TIN to able to undertake certain transactions.

“We need a lot of government support to be able to get us where we want to be. Policy has to help us, and the industry itself has to continue improving so that we can bring every Ghanaian into financial inclusion,” Mr. Obeng-Agyei noted.

Mr. Obeng-Agyei was speaking at a press briefing in Accra on Vodafone Cash month, which falls in June, and said even though such laws might take time to be fully enforced, a point will come when it is achieved.

Promoting digital payments, he further noted, will help government be able to gauge the economy’s real size because “anything that is digitised is measurable”.

He said as part of requirements, operators of mobile money report to Bank of Ghana every month how much money is circulating in the ecosystem and how much people have on their mobile phone-wallets, which goes to augment the amount of money going through the formal system.

In September 2017, a report on the country by Better Than Cash Alliance – a United Nations-based organisation – noted that 37 percent of the GH¢571billion of payments made in 2016 were done digitally. It however added that 98.72 percent of the 6.8 billion payments by volume are still being made in cash.

The report noted that to sustain the development in digital payments, government must focus on three priorities: investing in infrastructure for digital public utility payments, digitising payment of government fees and fines, and encouraging digital payments in the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) value chain to support digitisation of small retailers and customers.

It also predicted that if government continues to make progress, savings could reach over GH¢250million each year, which may result in more than GH¢1billion by 2020.

Vodafone Cash Month

As part of its commitment to driving a cash-lite society, Vodafone Ghana has dedicated June to its mobile financial service – Vodafone Cash – and outlined a host of activities to celebrate the month.

The initiative is aimed at educating Ghanaians about the service and its innovative Ahotor offer which has revolutionalised the mobile money space. The telecommunications giant will also be rewarding its customers and agents throughout the month with fantastic prizes.

Additionally, Vodafone customers will enjoy up to 30% discount when they use the service to pay for goods and services in selected shops across the country throughout the month of June.

“Our ultimate goal has always been to offer convenience and ease for all our customers, and we are excited that our innovative offers continue to deliver these to our customers. This campaign gives us the opportunity to once again celebrate the strides we have made so far in our journey to become a cash-lite society,’’ Mr. Obeng-Agyei assured.