The debate over tax and its relationship to better governance has come to the fore in recent years, as developing countries and aid agencies have increasingly questioned the effectiveness of aid. A growing body of research shows that taxation matters for governance. If governments do not depend on taxpayers for revenue, they have little need to be accountable and responsive to citizens. Likewise, if taxpayers see governments wasting their money or believe that others are unfairly avoiding tax, they will be reluctant to pay.
Yet many citizens do not realise that the funds the government spends on services such as education, transport, and healthcare, comes from their tax dollars, and there is limited public pressure to hold them to account. With recent elections in 2011 in Uganda and upcoming in Kenya in 2012, improved media coverage and debate of tax and governance issues, drawing on evidence and research, can increase citizens awareness and deepen engagement on these issues .
To that end, in Kenya and Uganda, Relay is implementing a programme to work with editors, journalists and researchers to improve reporting of research on tax and governance issues in the media in these two countries. The aim is to get tax and governance issues into the public domain – and debated by citizens, to hold policymakers and politicians to account. The current project is supported by the Department for International Development (DFID) and runs through March 2012.
The focus of the current project is to test and refine a series of approaches designed to strengthen the capacity of the media to report research on tax and governance issues. To do this, Relay will focus on the actors directly participating in the project – editors, researchers, and journalists – and track changes in their attitudes, relationship and skills.
The project being implemented in Kenya and Uganda and includes the following activities:
- Baseline studies, involving questionnaires and interviews with journalist, editors, and researchers to determine current attitudes, relationships, and experience with reporting research on tax.
- Stakeholder forums, bringing together media and research organisations, CSOs and policymakers to discuss opportunities for improving media coverage of tax and governance
- Media and research training – to build journalists skills to use and find the story in research, and researchers skills to communicate key messages and findings and engage with the media
- Journalist fellowship programme – to provide journalists with support to develop strong stories on tax and governance, using research as source
- Roundtable – bringing project partners and participants together to share lessons learned and impact
- Resources on tax and governance – ‘Tax matters’ media brief, case study report on ‘Reporting tax’ in Kenya
Outcomes to date include:
- Nearly 100 participants including journalists, editors, researchers, civil society, and government officials attended stakeholder forums in Uganda and Kenya to discuss reporting tax and governance issues
- As part of the training workshop, researchers in Uganda were given the opportunity to visit the ‘Vision’ group, the largest media house in Uganda, to help them appreciate the day to day pressures that media houses face.
- Researchers and journalists in Kenya and Uganda were paired for a field visit to research and write stories on tax. The process included interviewing people affected by tax issues (e.g. market sellers, shop owners, informal workers), recording interviews, editing and presentation.
- 4 journalists from Kenya and 5 from Uganda were selected to take part in the Fellowship programme. Over twenty new stories reporting research on tax and governance were published in leading national newspapers, including The Standard, the Nation in Kenya and the New Vision, the Monitor, and the weekly Observer in Uganda.
- Two roundtable dialogues were held in Kampala and Nairobi in March 2012. In Uganda the roundtable attracted key participants and decision makers such as the former chairperson of the Parliamentary Accounts Committee and leader of Opposition in the 9thParliament of Uganda, the Hon Nathan Nandala Mafabi. In Kenya, different stakeholders were brought together to strengthen already existing networks and inform a wider debate. Both events resulted in good media coverage discussing tax and governance issues.
- The East Africa Tax and Governance Network (EATGN) emerged out of a Relay workshop held in November 2009 with support from CommGAP in Naivasha, Kenya to ‘increase stakeholder engagement and public debate on tax and governance in Kenya.’ It has been an important partner for this project in Kenya
- The first national tax conference in Kenya – Unlocking Tax Secrets, Demystifying Taxation in Kenya – organised by the EATGN in August 2011 brought together more than 100 delegates including journalists, researchers, CSO leaders, leaders of community based groups from rural Kenya and government representatives.
- Relay’s training and fellowship programme further contributed to the development of a core committed group of around 30 journalists and researchers in Kenya and Uganda interested to report on tax and governance
- Due to Relay’s growing profile, a leading research and advocacy network working on tax issues in Uganda, the Southern and Eastern African Trade, Information, and Negotiation Initiative (SEATINI), requested to collaborate with Relay to support media engagement and mobilise journalists for a major regional debate event, ‘The East Africa Regional Dialogue on Taxation as a Source of Development Funding’
To learn more about the outcomes of the Relay programme in Eastern Africa, read the case study on engaging media on tax research in Kenya and Uganda
Media coverage produced:
- In Uganda:
Panos moves to improve tax reporting in East Africa. BizCommunity. 11April 2011. Walter Wafula
Economists disagree on what govt can do. The Observer. 4 May 2011. David Tash Lumu
Activists demand accountability for tax revenue. Daily Monitor. 16 August 2011. Emmanuel Mulondo
Uganda health sector needs resuscitation. The Observer. 16 November 2011. Alon Mwesigwa
Who will save the urban poor? The Observer. 27 November 2011. Alon Mwesigwa
URA set to effect transfer pricing policy. The Observer. 4 January 2012. Milly Kibombo
Health sector limps as aid taps run dry. The Observer. 11 January 2012. David Tash Lumu
China’s aid spurs growth, but traders feel cheated. The Observer. 19 January 2012. David Tash Lumu
From Chiefs running after defaulters to e-tax payment. The New Vision. 8 February 2012. David Mugabe
Foreign aid impact doubtful. The Observer. 15 February 2012. David Tash Lumu
Growth of the informal sector-bringing the untaxed on board. The New Vision. 15 February 2012. David Mugabe
Going formal good for business taxes. The New Vision. 1 March 2012. David Mugabe
Uganda at Fifty. NBS Television. 16 March 2012. Tyaba S. Abubakar
Good governance will encourage tax payers. Letters to the Editor. The Sunday Vision. 18 March 2012. Michael Aboneka
Experts warn against tax incentives. The Observer. 3 April 2012. Alon Mwesigwa
- In Kenya:
Closed budget making fans corruption. The Standard. 8 May 2011. Luke Anami
States carry tax burden as the rich escape offshore. The Standard. 7 October 2011. Luke Anami
ODM asks aspirants to be tax compliant. Daily Nation. 10 October 2011. Caroline Wafula
Finance minister issues tough guidelines to stabilise shilling. Kenya Today. 17 October 2011. Fred Aminga
Proposed Isiolo resort set out to change livelihoods. Kenya Today. 24 October 2011. Fred Aminga
Experts call for equitable taxation, wider net. The Standard. 23 October 2011. Luke Anami
Simplify tax rules. Daily Nation. 31 October 2011. Caroline Wafula
Union joins suit over De La Rue notes deal. Daily Nation. 10 November 2011. Caroline Wafula