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Christian Aid urges George Osborne to intervene on secret bank tax report

5 August 2014 - Christian Aid is appealing to George Osborne to help secure the release of a report by the European Investment Bank (EIB) on whose Board of Governors he sits.

The charity has written to the Chancellor about the European Investment Bank’s formal refusal to publish its report into allegations that a mining company controlled by multinational Glencore evaded tax in Zambia, one of the world’s poorest countries.

In refusing to publish the secret report, the Bank’s top managers have refused to follow the advice of their own complaints mechanism, which argued that it should publish a redacted version.

The Bank, which is owned by the UK and other EU members, is now proposing to make its ‘transparency’ policy still more secretive, apparently to avoid similar challenges in future.

Joseph Stead, Senior Economic Justice Adviser at Christian Aid, said: 'This is a scandal. The Bank is suppressing the publication of a report on a matter of significant public interest, both in Europe and in Africa: did a Glencore-controlled company evade tax or not?

'Christian Aid has today written to George Osborne, asking him to use his power as a member of the Bank’s Board of Governors to help overturn this absurd decision and ensure that the Bank’s new transparency policy makes the organisation less, not more secretive.'

When the UK hosted G8 countries’ summit meeting last summer, Mr Osborne joined Prime Minister David Cameron in stressing the huge importance of tax and transparency for people everywhere. In an article published at the time, Mr Osborne promised 'action to help developing countries collect tax that is due to them'.

He said: 'We will champion a new agenda of transparency and accountability in developing countries. With the authority that comes from meeting our international commitments on aid, Britain is well placed to tackle the causes, not just the symptoms of poverty, such as corruption and lack of transparency. As part of this work, we are clear that the developed world must lead by example.'

Christian Aid’s Joseph Stead said: 'We hope that Mr Osborne will lead the way on reversing the EIB’s secretive approach. The Bank should at the very least follow the advice of its own Complaints Mechanism colleagues, who investigated Christian Aid’s complaint and recommended publication of the report in redacted form.

'The UK and other EU governments own the EIB. It is time that they dragged the Bank into the light, so people can find out more about the projects to which it lends – including whether those involved pay their taxes. In 2013 alone, the Bank lent 75 billion Euros to infrastructure projects including motorways and power stations in Europe and beyond – so it affects the lives of millions.'

According to the 2013 Aid Transparency Index, the EIB is already more secretive than most other multilateral organisations. The Index rated it as ‘poor’ – one rung above the worst rating of ‘very poor’, as part of an assessment of 60 organisations.

For more information, please contact Rachel Baird on 00 44 (0)207 523 2446 or rbaird@christian-aid.org. Alternatively, contact the 24 hour press duty phone on 07850 242950. 

Notes to editors:

1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in around 50 countries at any one time. We act where there is great need, regardless of religion, helping people to live a full life, free from poverty. We provide urgent, practical and effective assistance in tackling the root causes of poverty as well as its effects.

2. Christian Aid’s core belief is that the world can and must be changed so that poverty is ended: this is what we stand for. Everything we do is about ending poverty and injustice: swiftly, effectively, sustainably. Our strategy document Partnership for Change www.christianaid.org.uk/images/partnership-for-change-summary.pdf explains how we set about this task.

3. Christian Aid is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of more than 130 churches and church-related organisations that work together in humanitarian assistance, advocacy and development. Further details at http://actalliance.org

4. Follow Christian Aid's newswire on Twitter: http://twitter.com/caid_newswire

5. For more information about the work of Christian Aid visit http://www.christianaid.org.uk