Reverend Suzanne Membe Matale
General Secretary of the Council of Churches in Zambia
Council of Churches in Zambia
Rev. Suzanne Matale is the General Secretary of the Council of Churches in Zambia, a tax justice activist and a member of the Independent Commission for the Reform of International Corporate Taxation (ICRICT), a group of global leaders promoting reform of the international corporate taxation system.
A global response to a global problem
Corruption isn’t just about the individuals that benefit; the crooked politicians, the officials that look the other way, the businessman that offers bribes or the lawyer that provides the cover. Corruption isn’t just about the individuals that suffer; the teacher that goes unpaid, the small businesswoman that loses out on a contract, the worker crushed in the collapse of a sub-standard building or the child that dies from hunger.
These are certainly important stories and they need to be exposed. Corruption harms African countries and robs our people of their livelihoods and dignity. It is estimated that over 30% of African wealth is held offshore while over $50 Billion is estimated to leave Africa illicitly every year.
But the real story, exposed so dramatically by the Panama Papers, is the story of the system that enables all of this to happen. A system for which we are all responsible, and yet most of us do nothing about.
Of course African countries have a responsibility to improve our governance systems to make them transparent and accountable to the people and citizens have the responsibility to hold their governments to account. But the problem needs to be seen for what it really is - a global system of corruption, designed and maintained by the wealthy and the powerful to serve their interests. This means we need to consider solutions that are genuinely global in nature. The common factors are the same wherever corruption takes place, a lack of transparency, weak rules and captured states.
As a member of the Independent Commission for Reform of International Corporate Taxation (ICRICT) I have called for the systems through which tax evasion takes place to be made far more transparent. This includes a requirement for states to create public, central registers of the beneficial owners of all companies, and assurances that the positive moves towards Automatic Exchange of Information will benefit all countries (not just those with the capacity to generate the information). We also want to see far more transparency in the relationship between companies and governments.
I hope this conference will lead to genuine actions in countries like my own, to enable citizens to hold their leaders, officials and governments to account. But I also expect that it will lead to real action in countries unlike my own; countries that proudly boast about their role in international finance.