Thursday, April 28, 2016
By Edmund Mingle
Moves for the development of Beneficial Ownership Register for the extractive sector, which will unveil the actual individual owners of companies, are underway.
The introduction of the Beneficial Ownership Disclosure (BOD) Register, is part of efforts by the country to ensure transparency and fight corruption in the extractive sector.
Currently, the government is collaborating with the Ghana Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (GHEITI), the Ghana Open Government Partnership, Financial Intelligence Centre and other agencies, to fashion out a roadmap for the development of the Registry by 2017.
M. B Abdul Razack, National Coordinator of GHEITI, explained at a media workshop on the 2014 GHEITI Report on oil and gas at Dodowa, that the roadmap would determined how Ghana’s BOD should be rolled out.
Beneficial owners are the actual individuals who control or enjoy the benefits of companies, although the companies may have legal identities.
When it becomes operational, the BOD registry, which is increasingly being adopted by developed countries, would identity the true owners of companies so as to check tax evasion, money laundering and corrupt practices through the use of dummy and anonymous companies.
The register, which would be hosted by the Registrar General’s Department, is expected to contain personal identity and details of the beneficial owners of companies in the extractive industry.
It falls in line with government’s determination to fulfill its commitments to the global inter-governmental Financial Action Task Force to fight money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
President Mahama is expected to give an update on the BOD regime at an anti-corruption summit in the United Kingdom next month.
According to Dr. Steve Manteaw, Co-Chairman of GHEITI, although Ghana’s effort has been good, there was need to speed up the process to meet the international commitments in transparency and anti-money laundering.
He was unhappy that the Petroleum Exploration and Production Bill, which is currently before Parliament, has no provisions on BOD, a situation he described as worrying.
Renewed efforts for the BOD around the globe comes in the wake of the “Panama Papers” leak, which revealed concealed investments through offshore financial structures, linked to influential people around the globe.
Norway last year joined Denmark and the United Kingdom—the first country to commit to a public registry of beneficial ownership information back in October 2013- as the latest countries to introduce the BOD legislation and systems to ensure increased financial transparency and tackle the abuse of anonymous companies.
The European Union also finalized a measure in May 2015 that, among numerous provisions, required all EU member-states to create central registries of beneficial ownership information for companies established in their countries.
While the EU directive doesn’t explicitly require states to make these registries public, it allows them to make the information public if they choose, and it does require them to at least make the information available to people with a “legitimate interest” in the information, with the aim of fostering accountability between investors, citizens, and governments.