African legislators join forces to fight illicit financial flows and increase accountability of governments
By Kristina Müller-Kuckelberg
The African Organisation of Public Accounts Committees’ (AFROPAC) second conference and general meeting was opened by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on 29 August 2016 in Nairobi. AFROPAC is a pan-African network of parliamentary committees dealing with the state budget and public accounts. It promotes continental peer-exchange on accountability and legislative oversight and fosters cooperation of member states’ institutional and political system from East to West Africa and North to South Africa. Around 160 participants from over 14 African countries, mainly members of parliament (MP) dealing with budget oversight, attended the conference.
In his opening speech the President emphasised the importance of cross-continental parliamentary exchange and the role of parliamentarians as guardians of democracy: “The work you do is not for the benefit of the opposition but citizens of your respective countries. Cross border projects will only succeed where Public Accounts Committees (PACs) did their work effectively. I believe this conference provides us with the opportunity for a fruitful exchange to produce actionable lessons for us all.”
National Assembly Deputy Speaker Dr Joyce Laboso called on national parliaments to enact laws that promote accountability in public financial expenditure.
The objective of the AFROPAC conference was to raise awareness of and discuss possible ways on how African legislators can contribute towards reducing Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) on the African continent. The Mbeki-Report on IFFs, launched by the High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows at the beginning of 2015, has reaffirmed that African nations are losing more than 50 billion USD per year due to illegal and illicit financial flows. Although IFFs is not only an African problem, the resulting loss of revenue is especially harmful to the economic development of African countries. The range of IFFs is wide-spread. It reaches from clearly illegal activities like money laundering, terror financing and tax evasion to illicit matters like tax avoidance and abusive transfer pricing. These actions undermine taxation and erode the revenue base of government, which could be used for poverty alleviation.
At the conference particular aspects of IFFs were discussed during three breakaway sessions which resulted in the following outcomes:
- strong parliaments, independent supreme audit institutions, well trained and skilled, are crucial for the combat of IFFs and efficient enforcement of regulations
- to successfully close illicit loopholes, a change in only one law will not be sufficient, but rather a coherent approach to legislation on financial matters is needed along with a strong political will
- the call for accountability and transparency of governments needs strong support from civil society and outspoken and engaged legislators.
The AFROPAC annual general meeting (AGM), where the network’s services to African parliaments and their committees were discussed, followed the conference. The AGM resulted in a newly elected executive committee and an agreement that a strategic partnership between AFROPAC as a continental network and the regional South, East and West African parliamentary networks are necessary for the fight of illicit financial flows.
The next general meeting takes place in two years’ time in Ethiopia.
The Good Financial Governance (GFG) in Africa Programme implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the European Union (EU) supported the organisation of the AFROPAC conference.
For further information on the GFG in Africa programme contact Dr Barbara Dutzler firstname.lastname@example.org.