By Ben Tavener, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The President of Caixa Econômica Federal, Jorge Hereda, has admitted that the early release of Bolsa Família payments on May 17th was intentional and planned to avoid a systems error whereby up to a million families had been registered twice by mistake, and could have been left without payments.
However, Hereda denied that problems with the company’s computer systems had caused the problems, instead blaming “inaccurate information” for the mishap.
The early release of funds appears to have prompted a rumor the following day that the Bolsa Família, a state benefit given in exchange for families taking their children to school and to medical centers for vaccinations, was going to be shut down.
It led to around 900,000 claimants rushing to their local Caixa to withdraw their payments, causing chaos at branches in the north and northeast regions of Brazil and in Rio state.
The result was that R$152 million (US$74 million) in Bolsa Família payments was withdrawn in the space of just a few hours. The Federal Police will continue to investigate the incident, the Ministry of Justice announced.
The Caixa President apologized and explained that the bank had told customers that it then released payments in order to alleviate the pressure caused by the rumor on its branches, when in fact this was not the case. A group of Senators summoned Hereda to appear before them to explain why it had taken a week for this clarification to be given.
However, Hereda also said that the Ministry of Development, responsible for the Bolsa Família benefit, had been informed by Caixa’s operations division that payments were going to be made early.
Hereda also denied that families have received double benefit. “We had no system error. The renewal of the NIS [social identification number] has nothing to do with the system of payment of Bolsa Família. We pay everyone on the sheet. Nobody got more than he had expected or failed to receive,” he said.
The Bolsa Família is normally paid to be withdrawn on a set date each month, depending on the individual’s card number.
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