28 August 2013

We Need Your Assistance to Stop Illegal Capital Flight - Congolese Officials Tell a Mbeki Mission to Kinshasa

Photo: Ngala Killian Chimtom/IPS
The Bakassi Peninsula, an area bordering Nigeria and Cameroon, lacks basic resources. Although primary education is free, enrolment rates are less than 50 percent.

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Addis Ababa — Top Government officials, heads of Parliament as well as leaders of the civil society and the private sector of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) say they are eagerly anticipating the recommendations from a High Level Panel led by South Africa's former President Thabo Mbeki, to save the country from wanton illegal cash outflows that have cost the country over $54 billion in the last four decades. The High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa (HLP), which receives technical support from the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), concluded its three-day assignment to the DRC on a high note and expressed its satisfaction on the openness of all stakeholders consulted. The mission was part of a continent-wide and global campaign to help halt and repatriate the huge amounts of money illegally carted away from Africa.

"We are very pleased with the encounters we have had so far," said Mr Mbeki. "The experience [we have had here in the DRC] is very important for other African countries because we have to make recommendations on how the continent as a whole must respond to this particular challenge," he added.

Among the several revelations on the nature of illegal capital exportation from the DRC made to the Panel by a team led by the DRC's Minister Delegate for Finance, Mr Patrice Kitebi Kibol, was the suspicion that only in the region of 15 percent of possible revenue from mineral exports is collected by customs and tax authorities due to an inability to verify declarations made by mining companies. This corresponds to an 85 percent likely loss in revenue for the State. The Congolese authorities said Government was having a hard time trying to reverse the trend due to the lack of technical and human capacity to control the outflows. The porous nature of the Congo's vast borders compounded by persistent conflict in resource-rich areas of the country has also complicated the task of the authorities. The problem in the DRC, they added, is worsened by its economic concentration whereby a complex system of oligopolies, vertical integration and cartelisation is helping companies to evade taxes and facilitate illegal transfers.

Against these challenges, a string of recommendations were made by stakeholders consulted by the Panel. They include the need to strengthen collaboration between commercial banks and financial control institutions and set up an effective legal framework to respond to the illicit financial outflows including legal guarantees on the access to information. The Panel also learnt of the need for skills building at all levels of Government as well as the acquisition of the requisite technical tools and financial resources to enable effectively operate and deal with the issue at hand. The need to strengthen collaboration between Congolese state institutions and promote the exchange of information between African states was also emphasized, while civil society was reminded of their responsibility as the conscience of the nation and their role in national campaigns on ethics and the fight against corruption. The need to create an enabling environment for the emergence a wealth-generating middle class that will invest in industrial transformation so as to encourage local production, boost intra-African trade and contribute to improved national security was also highlighted.

During their three-day stay in the DRC, President Mbeki and his team had encounters with President Joseph Kabila Kabange; the President of the Senate - the Hon. Léon Kendo Wa Dondo; the President of the Assembly - the Honorable Aubin Minako; Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo and various other key Ministers; the Governor of the Central Bank - Deogratias Mutombo Mwana Nyembo; heads of civil society; the private sector and academia.

Before leaving the DRC President Mbeki thanked President Joseph Kabila Kabange and his entire Government and compatriots for their frank collaboration and said his team would build on the experience gathered from all the countries visited to recommend actions to be taken to halt the illegal transfer of money from Africa and to get illegally transferred funds repatriated to the continent. He promised to revert to them with recommendations in the first half of 2014.

Note to editors

The idea of setting up the HLP was hatched in Addis Ababa in March 2011 during the 4th Joint Annual Meeting of the Africa Union Conference of African Ministers of Economy and Finance and Economic Commission for Africa's Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development. The two institutions were given the mandate to coordinate the mission of the Panel, which started full-fledged work on 5 February 2012. The Panel's overall mission, which is to make clear recommendations of a generalised nature based on the specific experiences of the national case studies undertaken on curbing illicit financial flows from Africa, is considered crucial given current estimates that the continent now loses at least 50 billion dollars yearly due to illicit financial flows - a figure that exceeds the Official Development Assistance (ODA) it receives.

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InFocus

Illicit Cash Flows Hurting African Economies

The Bakassi Peninsula, an area bordering Nigeria and Cameroon, lacks basic resources. Although primary education is free, enrolment rates are less than 50 percent.

The amount of illicit cash flowing out due to tax evasion and corruption has nearly doubled over the past three decades and continues to hinder development, experts say. Read more »