The Secret We Mustn’t Keep – Tearfund's Policy Blog

October 1, 2013 by Melissa Lawson

by Rachel Dickinson

Poverty is no secret. It happens across the world and it robs people of their hope and dignity. But what remains secret are the illicit deals and hidden transactions that deprive poor communities of the money they need to tackle poverty. Tearfund is launching our new Secret’s Out campaign, calling on the Prime Minister to expose the scandal of corruption as we approach the Australian G20 Summit.

In 2010, developing nations lost a staggering £555 billion because of illicit money flows – money stolen through corruption, smuggling, trade mispricing, money laundering and tax evasion. Consistently we hear from the communities that we work with the pervasive and crippling effects of corruption, and unless this everyday reality of corruption is challenged, the poorest communities will remain trapped in poverty.

The good news is that already we’re seeing astounding progress in the fight against corruption. Tearfund’s Unearth the Truth campaign launched in June 2011 set about implementing European transparency laws in the extractive industries. Africa has an astonishing amount of natural resources, whilst being classified as the most economically underdeveloped continent.

Following two years of campaigning by Tearfund staff and supporters, on 12 June 2013, the European Union passed new laws demanding European extractive companies to publish the payments they make for oil, gas and precious minerals in the countries where they operate. The laws apply to all extractive companies registered in Europe and will require disclosure of all payments over 100,000 euros on a project-by-project basis. With this new information available, more communities will be able to see what their government is receiving and hold them to account.

The EU legislation and the similar US Dodd-Frank regulations passed last August, will now cover approximately two thirds of all listed oil, gas and mining companies worldwide. This is a major achievement, but there is still much to be done. G20 countries like Australia, South Africa and Brazil, which are home to large extractive companies, are not yet covered by transparency legislation. That’s why Tearfund’s Secret’s Out campaign is working to ensure G20 countries follow Europe in committing to more extractive industry transparency, so that communities will be able to benefit further from the vast mineral wealth beneath their feet.

And in order to challenge corruption, citizens not only need to see what money is coming into their communities, but keep a check of how their leaders are spending it. Secret’s Out is also calling on G20 nations to agree higher standards of budget transparency, making sure they set the highest standards by providing extensive accessible and understandable budget information.

Giving citizens and churches knowledge about key financial decisions being made in their countries empowers them to get involved in the debate about how revenues are being spent,  whether on schools, hospitals, or other issues that matter to their communities.  Budget monitoring schemes such as the Public Expenditure Tracking (PETS) committee in Mpamantwa village, Tanzania demonstrates how greater budget information is transforming communities – from helping to increase the size of the local school, to ensuring  availability of medicines in the local health clinic.

Thanks to the work of the PETS committee, the local school in Mpamantwa Village has recently been fitted with three new classrooms.

It is our hope that the achievements like those of the PETS committee become not rare case studies but everyday anecdotes. Please join us as we approach the G20 Summit to make sure the illicit transactions that trap people in poverty no longer remain a secret.