Africa’s High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows has concluded its tour of DR Congo, leaving behind eager anticipation of the civil society and the private sector that recommendations of the panel would save the country from wanton illegal cash outflows.
Led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, the 10-member team visited DRC from 26-28 August, 2013, to examine the seriousness and complexity of the problem of illegal money outflows from the troubled mineral-rich country.
The Panel, which receives technical support from the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), has concluded its assignment “on a high note and expressed its satisfaction on the openness of all stakeholders consulted”, said a statement issued Thursday by the ECA.
According to ECA, wanton illegal cash outflows have cost DRC over US$ 54 billion in the last four decades.
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 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.”
Among the several revelations on the nature of illegal capital exportation from DRC made to the Panel by a team led by the country’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 while the Congolese authorities said government was having a hard time trying to reverse the trend due to the lack of technical and human capacity.
In addition, the porous nature of 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, according to local officials, was worsened by its economic concentration whereby a complex system of oligopolies, vertical integration and cartelisation helps companies to evade taxes and facilitate illegal transfers.
Against these challenges, a string of recommendations were made by stakeholders consulted by the Panel.
These 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 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 emphasised, 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.
According to ECA, 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 stay in DRC, Mbeki and his team had meetings with President Joseph Kabila, Senate President Léon Kendo Wa Dondo; the President of the Assembly –Aubin Minako; Prime Minister Augustin Matata Ponyo and various other key ministers, Central Bank Governor Deogratias Mutombo Mwana Nyembo; heads of civil society, the private sector and academia.
Mbeki thanked President Kabila and his entire government and compatriots for their frank collaboration.
He 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.
Mbeki promised to make the panel’s recommendations available to DRC in the first half