By Omoh Gabriel
Worried by the low level of tax revenue in African countries, the International Monetary Fund, IMF, last week brought together national revenue authority chiefs from across Africa in South Africa to discuss ways to improve governance of revenue administration. According to the IMF, the chief executives and board chairpersons from 12 African countries participated in an April 10-12 high-level seminar near Johannesburg.
Participants at the seminar were drawn from revenue authority chief executives and board chairpersons from Botswana, Burundi, Ghana, the Gambia, Lesotho, Rwanda, Seychelles, South Sudan, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
The seminar was organised by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in collaboration with the African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF). This is the first seminar of its kind where board chairpersons and chief executives of African revenue authorities have gathered to discuss current issues relating to board governance. The event was financed by Topical Trust Fund on Tax Policy and Administration, which was established by the IMF in May 2011 to channel funds from other donors into vital technical assistance to help countries improve their tax structures and operations.
“It is a fact that a number of countries in Africa are faced with major challenges in the area of revenue administration. It is my considered view that countries should focus on improving governance or set up an effective governance framework for the revenue authority as a first step. This seminar on governance is a timely intervention and is extremely useful to the countries that have adopted the revenue authority model for revenue administration.
“Two key benefits of the seminar are the sharing of good practice and also the establishmentof a much needed informal communication network for revenue authority boards in Africa. I’m thankful to ATAF and the IMF for this initiative which is a first in the continent,” said Mr. Ambrose Dlamini, Board Chairman of the Swaziland Revenue Authority and CEO of MTN (Swaziland).
Semi-autonomous revenue authorities are now the norm in many Anglophone African countries and interest in this organisational and governance model is growing elsewhere in Africa and beyond. Although variations of the model exist, some common characteristics include separate human resource policies and procedures from regular government departments and strategic oversight by a board typically with a mix of private and public sector representation. This seminar aims to exchange experiences and views on this model by the key strategic leaders in countries that have introduced, or are contemplating a revenue authority.
Other goals of the workshop are as follows: to provide basic information on legal frameworks and statistics pertaining to revenue authorities and their boards from recent research, as well as data gathered from the Revenue Administration’s – Fiscal Information Tool, an initiative of the IMF’s Fiscal Affairs Department to gather key revenue administration data from member countries to establish a core set of performance indicators for improved cross-country comparisons and benchmarking; to review current issues in board governance; to provide a platform for discussion and sharing of country experiences with a view to improving governance of revenue administration in African countries with semi-autonomous revenue authorities; to identify subject areas where further research would be useful; and to establish an informal communication network for Revenue Authority boards in Africa.
This seminar may be replicated in future in response to growing interest in establishing Revenue Authorities in Francophone African countries and elsewhere.