A framework is being developed to ensure the implementation of the Beneficial Ownership Disclosure (BOD) provisions in the amended Companies Act of 1963 in response to the requirements of the 2016 Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) standards.
Ghana signed on to the EITI in 2003 and the EITI standards mandate all implementing countries to establish a public Beneficial Ownership Disclosure (BOD) regime by January 2020 and also develop a BOD Register.
As a result, the Companies Act had been amended to include a provision which makes it obligatory for the Registrar General’s Department develop and keep a BOD register and as a result the Ghana Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (GHEITI) on Thursday, convened a stakeholders workshop to kick-start the process of developing the framework.
The programme dubbed from ‘From Legislation to Implementation’, organised by GHEITI and sponsored by EITI, UKaid and Natural Resource Governance Institute, was attended by participants from the Attorney General and Ministry of Justice, Registrar General’s Department, development partners,and international non-governmental organisations.
Opening the stakeholders workshop, the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta in a speech read on his behalf said Ghana’s quest for tackling corruption would be a mirage if a strong BOD regime was not promoted.
He said the issue of beneficial ownership secrecy had become a topic of concern across the world, in the wake of the Panama Papers and other similar exposes, indicating that the secrecy in beneficial ownership enabled people and companies to siphon away monies that otherwise could have been used to improve the lives of the poor.
Quoting Transparency International, the minister said global money laundering was estimated at 2 trillion annually and the World Bank and World Economic Forum estimated that about $1.25 trillion was lost to bribe annually, adding that “Oxfam also indicates that poor countries lose up to $170 billion yearly to tax evasion”.
Mr Ofori-Atta entreated the Registrar General’s Department to ensure that the BOD Register which would be set up was compatible with global standards, and also urge the stakeholders to “interrogate the practical implementation issues that Ghana may face by implementing the BOD Register”.
The Co-Chair of GHEITI, Dr Steve Manteaw said the move for legislation on the BOD Register was started in 2013 and subsequently the Companies Act of 1963 was amended last year to make provision on the BOD since the country could incorporate the BOD in the Petroleum Exploration and Production Bill.
He said EITI standards mandates that apart from contract disclosure, there was also the need for countries to establish a register to know the owners of companies that are given mining leases and blocks in the oil sector, and said the objective of the BOD was to promote good governance and accountability in the extractive sector.
He said the new provision in the Companies Act required the Register General’s Department to establish and maintain a publicly available register of the beneficial owners of the corporate entity or entities that bid for, operate or invest in extractive assets, including the identities of their beneficial owners.
The Africa Director of NRGI, suggested the BOD provision should expand to include the family relations and associates of owners of mining and oil and gas companies.
He also opined all requirements related to disclosing and updating business owners information should apply to external companies.
The Acting Registrar General of the Registrar General’s Department, Jemima Oware said Ghana had become a pacesetter in the BOD in the world, since apart from the United Kingdom and few other countries, it was Ghana which had started the process of a BOD regime.
He appealed to GHEITI to provide more training to the staff of the Registrar General’s Department on the new BOD regime.
By Kingsley Asare