State-Building through Taxation
Title: Supporting the Establishment of the African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: All ATAF member states
Lead executing agency: African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF)
Partner: ATAF Secretariat
Overall term: 2011 to 2012
Contrary to popular belief, taxation does not only serve to mobilise revenues and meet government’s revenue objective, thereby creating the fiscal space required to fund public policies. Taxation also has a more far-reaching impact as it is an integral building block for the establishment of good governance and democracy by promoting accountability and ownership. Fostering national budgets through taxes rather than foreign aid and loans increases ownership of government decisions and decreases the dependence of states on donor nations. Moreover, encouraging citizens to pay their taxes translates into higher demands for public service delivery, creating a give-and-take relationship between the citizen and the state.
Tax officers are the state officials that citizens deal with the most. A tax officer who is committed to service, professionalism and integrity will positively affect the image citizens have of their state, including their perception of the state’s capabilities, integrity and legitimacy. Taxation therefore directly affects the citizen-state relationship.
With the intention to promote good governance and state-building on the African continent, the African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF) was launched by African tax commissioners in November 2009. ATAF aims at improving revenue mobilisation and good financial governance by facilitating knowledge exchange and sharing experience amongst actors. To this end, it provides African tax administrations and other stakeholders with a platform for increased mutual cooperation. Additionally, the forum aims to provide its members with capacity development opportunities like in-depth training on specific tax issues that it offers to African tax officers. Currently, ATAF has 33 member states. Its secretariat is situated in Pretoria, South Africa.
The project aims to establish ATAF as an African competence centre for the creation of tax reform options that all member states use and draw from on a regular basis.
In January 2011 GIZ started the Supporting the Establishment of the African Tax Administration Forum project which offers multilayered support in three areas to assist ATAF with the achievement of its goals. The project concentrates on the establishment of the organisational structure of the secretariat, including the organisational design, the processes and procedures of decision-making, as well as evaluation mechanisms. It supports ATAF in establishing itself as a technical organisation by assisting the development of its research capacity. The GIZ supported research guides the organisation’s work and members’ reform attempts, and serves as a basis for an African agenda on tax issues. Finally, the project seeks to strengthen ATAF`s capacity to facilitate reforms in its member countries through tailored capacity development measures.
The project works closely with the ATAF Secretariat and offers strategic as well as technical advisory services in all three support areas.
As of 2013 the technical support to ATAF is being implemented by the Good Financial Governance in Africa programme.
Results achieved so far
Although the cooperation project has only just started, several project activities have already displayed their direct impact:
GIZ facilitated an internal workshop with the ATAF Secretariat to revise the ATAF Workplan 2011. The revised Workplan has been approved by the forum’s council, allowing the ATAF to prioritise more effectively on its organisational establishment. In addition, the Workplan contains a revised set of indicators, enabling ATAF members to evaluate the work of the secretariat by the end of 2011.
GIZ also supported the development of a concept that links ATAF’s research explicitly to the organisation’s objectives. The concept structures the research plans according to several research projects, thereby enabling the organisation to enhance its collaboration with international organisations on specific research topics. The incorporated methodology provides ATAF with a framework for an intensified engagement with member countries through regional diagnostic workshops.
Further project activities regarding the organisational establishment and research of ATAF were agreed upon in a joint planning workshop. Additionally, linkages to other GIZ tax projects will be enforced in order to exchange reform experiences as well as to pilot ATAF capacity development approaches.