A one-year project aimed at supporting Ghana’s effort at implementing beneficial ownership (BO) information to check illicit activities and corruption in the extractive sector was launched in Accra yesterday.
Beneficial ownership identifies persons who control an entity or company, and exercise significant influence over them as well as receive profits therein although they may not be the registered owners.
The “Opening Extractive Programme” (OEP) thus aims to widen the scope of publicly available information on owners of extractive companies who transact business with Ghana, to end the use of anonymous companies involved in corruption and mismanagement of natural resources.
It will provide technical and legal support, among others, to help Ghana build a credible BOT register to get value-for-money, and ensure that the state and citizens benefit from contracts executed in the sector.
The programme funded by the BHP Foundation will be jointly implemented by the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) International and Open Ownership (OO) in collaboration with agencies like the Registrar Generals Department (RGD) and the Ministry of Finance (MoF).
A Deputy Minister of Finance, John Kuma in a speech read on his behalf said the launch of the programme takes Ghana a step further at tackling corruption and increasing domestic revenue mobilisation to achieve the “Ghana Beyond Aid” agenda.
“We believe beneficial ownership transparency will enable Ghanaian citizens, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), media and competent authorities to know who exactly owns and controls companies and therefore be able to “follow the money” and hold companies and individuals accountable,” he said.
He said by reducing the risk for corruption, chances were that revenue from extractive projects would not only be used for local development rather than the “enrichment of few”, but, benefit companies by supporting them with better data to perform their due diligence while boosting investor confidence about the ease of doing business in Ghana.
Dr Kuma disclosed that by show of political will to fight corruption in the extractive sector, a new Companies’ Act, 2019 (Act 992) had been passed by parliament “to reduce opacity and enhance business operation in the country.”
He said “since October 2020, companies are mandated to disclose their beneficial owners through a central register hosted by the RGD”, as efforts are accelerated to make the register publicly available by 2023.
The Registrar-General, Mrs Jemima Oware, outlined measures, including creating an electronic central register integrated with the current beneficial ownership on all companies and an online portal where the public could submit and access beneficial ownership information anywhere in the world.
“This is going to ensure the existence of a complete public register and we are trusting that before the end of this year, our system would be upgraded to enable us have this kind of online portal facility,” she said.
Dr Steve Manteaw, the Chairperson of the Civil Society Platform on Oil and Gas, was elated Ghana was selected as part of eight other countries to pilot the OEP which he said, would save the country lots of money and ensure value-for- money.
BY ABIGAIL ANNOH