The institutions and governance structure of ATAF are set out in the ATAF Agreement which details the roles, responsibilities, functions and powers of such institutions:
At its bi-annual meeting, the General Assembly acts as the platform for strategic dialogue between members and stakeholders. The General Assembly appoints office bearers, including the Executive Secretary, approves the Work Programmes and corresponding budgets, and determines any increment in membership fees.
In terms of its functions and powers, the General Assembly reviews, inter alia, developments in the establishment of the Secretariat, ATAF Technical Events/Capacity Development Programmes, current ATAF Programmes and Research Projects, cooperation with international development partners, and all financial matters.
The first meeting of the General Assembly, held from 25 to 27 July 2011 in Balaclava, Mauritius, marks a significant milestone in the development of ATAF. Heads of revenue administrations and officials from ATAF’s member countries participated in this inaugural meeting, as well as development partners, international organisations, academics and delegates from the private sector.
The theme for the first General Assembly meeting was International and Domestic Aspects of Tax Fraud, Evasion and Avoidance. Speakers and panellists presented on a range of topics relating to tax evasion and avoidance, with special focus on different approaches to tax audits, enforcement and compliance.
Twenty-six African Revenue Authorities, as ATAF members, attended the 2nd General Assembly Meeting in Dakar, Senegal. The theme for the meeting was Tax sovereignty, competition and cooperation: the benefits and risks of tax incentives and exemptions for economic development in Africa.
The Meeting approved a report by the ATAF Council on the developments of the Organisation. In addition, Members considered and approved the Draft ATAF Strategic Plan for 2013 – 2015, the Draft ATAF 2013 Work Plan and the Draft ATAF 2013 Financial Plan. The meeting also approved a report by the ATAF Council on the feasibility of establishing an African Tax Centre (ATC), and the establishment of a Technical Assistance Facility. In focusing on Revenue Planning, Analysis and Forecasting, the meeting further approved the commencement of research on an African Tax Outlook that will publish annual tax statistics.
The General Assembly was presented with a provisional report of regional diagnostic studies on the needs & tax reforms of five ATAF sub-regions. The report will be made available to those countries who have participated in the diagnostic workshop. The strategic engagement with African business to improve compliance and the tax experience was welcomed.
It was recommended to the General Assembly that ATAF member countries apply for membership to the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information and that ATAF actively participates in the activities of the Global Forum. This will not only enhance the ATAF objective of contributing towards increased transparency and cooperation among tax administrations but will also ensure that the issue of exchange of information for tax purposes remains on the African Agenda.
The meeting approved a proposal by the members for the retention of the current members of Council on the basis of their commendable leadership in managing the Organisation thus far. Mr Oupa Magashula of South Africa was retained as the ATAF Chairperson with Mr Amadou Ba of Senegal being appointed as the Vice-Chairperson of the ATAF Council. The first Executive Secretary of ATAF, Mr. Logan Wort was also appointed. Zimbabwe offered to host the forthcoming ATAF International Conference in September 2013, with Tanzania offering to host the 3rd General Assembly Meeting in 2014.
The following significant resolutions were approved by the General Assembly:
The Council aims to guide the Organisation in achieving its vision, mission and objectives for African tax administrations. Subject to such directives as may be given by the General Assembly, Council is responsible for the overall management of the business of ATAF.
Furthermore, as a means of organisational strengthening, the ATAF Council has established three Governance Committees among its members to assist it in its duties in guiding and facilitating specific areas of responsibility.
The first ATAF Council, comprising of 10 members, was elected at the ATAF Inaugural Conference in Kampala in November 2009. At this occasion, Council was tasked with guiding the Organisation in the initial stages of its establishment along a path that will make ATAF a credible, effective and sustainable organisation as it pursues its vision, mission and strategic objectives. The Heads of the tax administrations of Botswana, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa (chairperson) and Zimbabwe comprise the first ATAF Council. The Executive Secretary serves as an ex officio member of Council.
For the purposes of establishing ATAF as a legal entity and an international organisation, at its 2nd Meeting in Tunis on 15 -16 November 2010, the ATAF Council adopted, by majority, the final texts of the ATAF Agreement and its corresponding Rules & Procedures through the signing of a Resolution, indicating their acceptance of the final text.
The finalisation of the ATAF founding documents at the 2nd Council Meeting thus paves the way for all member States to proceed with their respective domestic processes for approval, signature and / or ratification of the ATAF Agreement and its corresponding Rules & Procedures.
The Rwanda Revenue Authority hosted the 3rd Meeting of the ATAF Council in Kigali on 2 and 3 June 2011.
Two newly appointed heads of their respective tax administrations, Commissioner General Ben Bahizi Kagarama of Rwanda and Commissioner General Keneilwe R. Morris of Botswana were warmly welcomed. A representative of the Revenue Authority of Burundi, Ms Aude Toyi, attended the meeting as an observer. The Interim Secretariat’s Report of Activities from November 2010 to June 2011, as well as the revised ATAF 2011 Work Plan, was approved by Council.
Special guests included the Regional Representative of the African Development Bank for Southern Africa, Dr. Ebrima Faal, as well as the Director of the Centre for Tax Policy and Administration of the OECD, Mr. Pascal Saint-Amans. The Commissioner General of Malawi was invited to attend the meeting as an observer.
As part of the Secretariat Report covering the Organisation’s activities from July 2011 to February 2012, Council approved the Secretariat’s proposal to establish an ATAF Technical Assistance Unit (TAU).
Recognising that ATAF needs to make rapid progress in providing a uniform solution for the exchange of tax information to ensure legal certainty for taxpayers, members and for third countries, Council consequently approved the following:
Council’s consideration and consequent approval of these four products makes it more important than ever that ATAF Member States show their determination to combat tax fraud and tax evasion and to improve information exchange in tax matters, in full respect of taxpayer's rights.
The ATAF Council has furthermore established the following Governance Committees to assist it in its duties:
The Governance and Organisational Development Committee, composed of Zimbabwe (Chair), Botswana and South Africa, focuses on reviewing ATAF’s strategic direction and adopting plans proposed by the Secretariat.
The responsibilities of the Finance and Audit Committee, administered by Nigeria (Chair), Ghana, Morocco and Senegal are to make recommendations for Council’s approval and/or deliver reports regarding significant financial planning, management and financial reporting issues. The specific audit and accounting related responsibilities and functions of the Audit Committee include supervising that the Council creates and maintains an effective internal control environment within ATAF, and that the Council demonstrates and stimulates the necessary respect for these disciplines and structures.
The Committee on Capacity Building, Research & Development and Technical Assistance, under the direction of Rwanda (Chair), Gabon and Kenya acts under the overall supervision of the Council. The function of the Committee is to provide strategic direction for ATAF’s work in the fields of capacity building, research, technical assistance and training, as well as for the development needs of the various regions.