Helen Clark: Speech at launch of UNDP-OECD collaboration on “Tax Inspectors without Borders”

Jul 13, 2015

I’m delighted to join the OECD Secretary-General, Angel Gurria to launch this exciting new initiative and partnership between our organizations.

As the Secretary-General has explained, the potential contribution of the “Tax Inspectors without Borders” initiative is not hypothetical. From the OECD-managed pilot phase, we have seen how the programme works to realise the goal of strengthening tax collection capacity.

The “Tax Inspectors without Borders” programme is about “learning by doing”. Tax audit experts are placed within the administrations of participating countries. Each is assigned to work strategically with national officials, in ways which develop the national capacities which the countries need to tackle international tax challenges; conduct reliable audits; and boost revenues.

UNDP is pleased to join OECD to take “Tax Inspectors without Borders” to scale. There is strong demand from tax administrations in developing countries, for practical assistance like this. Our joint programme being launched today aims to meet this demand, building on the success of the pilot phase, and drawing on the comparative strength of our two organisations.

In elaborating on the importance of the initiative, let me make two key points:

The importance of strengthening domestic resource mobilisation.

Many developing countries and their partners have long given priority to this in order to increase financing for development. Already, domestic resources are the largest and most important source of development financing.

The number of side events here in Addis Ababa focused on domestic resource mobilisation and the number of references to it in the draft outcome document underline its importance. Countries need to step up their capacity to collect the tax they should be getting from international companies and to stop illicit finance flows which also draw resources from development.

The proposed outcome from this conference mentions the need to enhance revenue administrations and build progressive and efficient tax systems. It also contains a commitment to strengthen international co-operation in this area, including through targeted official development assistance (ODA).

2. Developing the capacity for strengthening domestic resource mobilisation.

On average, developing countries are estimated to have increased revenues fourteen per cent every year since 2000. Progress, however, has been uneven across countries, and there have been reversals.
A number of Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States continue to struggle to mobilize domestic resources, as do fragile and conflict-affected states.

Building capacity is at the heart of what UNDP does. We are involved in initiatives around the world related to capacity development on tax, financial inclusion, and public service excellence. We are pleased to add “Tax Inspectors without Borders” to our portfolio. There is a strong demand from governments for this kind of capacity development support.

In Jordan, UNDP is supporting the government to revise its property tax codes and computerize its tax systems. The goal is to increase revenues, and also to strengthen governance and institutions.

In Africa, through the Pole de Dakar, UNDP is supporting seventeen countries to build capacity to collect tax revenues and improve budget management.

Our Global Centre for Public Service Excellence in Singapore is sharing best practice and institutional innovation across countries. This matters hugely for building competent and professional tax administrations.

“Tax Inspectors without Borders” will draw its experts from both the South and the North, meaning that there is an important South-South dimension to this initiative.

In conclusion, this partnership between UNDP and OECD utilizes the strengths of both of our organizations – drawing on UNDP’s country level presence, local knowledge, and track record on capacity development, and the OECD’s expertise and networks on tax audit issues.

It gives me great pleasure to be with Angel Gurria to launch the next phase of this exciting new initiative. We look forward to working with all partners on the initiative and to reporting back on its results.