Addressing the growing challenge of payments for NGOs in the field

06 March 2017
Randall Gordon-DuffHead of Product – Corporate TravelCollinson Group

An increasingly common consideration is help with payments when working in remote locations

By Randall Gordon-Duff, Head of Product, Corporate Travel, Collinson Group

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Insurance, security and assistance provision is rightly seen as fundamental for Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), charity workers and similar professionals working in remote, underdeveloped and dangerous locations. Without such provision, an organisation could be failing its staff with regards to its Duty of care responsibilities.

However, an increasingly common additional consideration for NGOs is help with payments and financial transactions when working in remote locations. Carrying out transactions, large or small, has been a long-standing challenge for charities and NGOs, while money laundering legislation is impacting electronic payments. Collinson Group believes that this will become an increasingly significant aspect of Duty of Care, and is meeting the challenge with next generation financial products.

Areas of conflict and international sanctions

NGOs and charities often operate in areas of conflict and/or on international sanction lists where compliance and regulation can seem far removed from the reality of the situation at ground level. This is particularly evident in Africa – a key example is Somalia, which remains subject to financial sanctions.

These challenges force NGOs and charities to seek alternative payment methods, such as Western Union transfers and sending cash, either with staff or with couriers. These methods carry their own inherent challenges, including limited traceability and potential fraud as internal expense processes cannot be audited effectively due to hand written receipts often being the only proof of transaction.

Sending large amounts of cash also increases the risks to staff members who have to carry bundles of notes around in locations where threats to personal security can be elevated.

Submitting an invoice overseas

Assistance companies try to help with guaranteeing payment on behalf of any patient but submitting an invoice overseas and receiving an international transfer as payment often incurs prohibitive fees for the local provider and therefore they are more likely to ask for direct payment.

Where there is an increased demand on an aircraft, ground ambulance or specific expertise that is in limited supply, often a “dutch auction” will ensue whereby the quickest and largest cash bidder will procure services over those who promise a payment term of seven or 14 days hence. In remote locations where the “golden hour” of receiving care can be the difference between life and death, these delays can prove extremely critical.

The challenge lies in creating a system that empowers staff on the ground to access appropriate medical and security assistance, in a way that also enables their employer to move money quickly and efficiently while conforming to regulations.

We believe much more can be done to help NGOs and similar professionals to overcome this challenge. Collinson Group has developed the 360 assistance card combining an emergency fund transfer solution and assistance functionality. Corporate load cards of this type enable employers to get money immediately to workers in the field, be it emergency funds in the case of an assistance case, or simply to track expenses or even pay wages.

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