Ghana’s beneficial ownership registry will be made publicly accessible in 2023, with the aim of checking corruption and illicit financial flows in the extractives sector.
The effectiveness of the beneficial ownership (BO) rests on a key characteristic, transparency— the disclosure of the real owners of companies or entities, thus avoiding anonymity in business transactions— and the accessibility of such information to the public.
Towards this end, the government, this week, September 14, 2021, launched a one year project aimed at supporting the country’s efforts at implementing beneficial ownership information for the purposes highlighted.
The Deputy Minister of Finance is on record to have said that, “since October 2020, companies are mandated to disclose their beneficial owners through a central register hosted by the Registrar-General’s Department, as efforts are accelerated to make the register publicly available by 2023.”
Along these lines, the Registrar General, Mad. Jemima Opare is also on record to have said that, the measures outlined for the beneficial ownership registry include: the creation of an electronic central register to be integrated with the beneficial ownership register; and an online portal to enable public submit and access beneficial ownership information at all times.
This notwithstanding, it is not entirely a smooth endeavor, making such data publicly accessible. And until that happens, it is quite premature to indicate that all stakeholders assent to such an action.
Anonymous companies have been used to facilitate corruption across many sectors, including the extractive industry. For instance, Africa loses around GBP 88.6 billion in illicit capital flight every year, according to the United Nations. And Ghana, in particular loses US$6 billion from illicit financial flows in the extractives sector annually, according to Dr. Ali-Nakyea, a tax expert.
Issue of Safety, a major concern in other jurisdictions
Typically, with such an arrangement, the question of who profits from extractive resources is known, therefore it serves as a check against illicit activities including illicit financial flows in the extractive sector.
However, this key requirement has incited a number of pushbacks in certain jurisdictions. Such countries have not been able to effectively roll out a beneficial ownership register, not to even go the extent of ensuring public accessibility.
For instance, although Columbia has a beneficial ownership register, the BO data is not publicly accessible. Countries like Trinidad and Tobago have a free public repository, however, the register is based on voluntary reporting by extractive companies.
Broadly, the above is a typical case in the Latin America and the Caribbean region. According to Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI), 18 countries have regulations backing beneficial ownership. Out of this number, only 8 have established registries, yet it is hard to find these registers publicly accessible.
Meanwhile, proponents against making BO transparent, in such jurisdictions have cited personal safety concerns as a major reason for keeping the identities of owners private. Without writing off this concern, especially within a political climate that is alleged as seeming to ‘antagonize’ political opponents, this is a legitimate case.
But also, this concern yields a dilemma— either putting national interests above personal interests or vice versa.
Considering this however, some experts argue that “the individual cannot be a stronger argument than the interest of a national public entity.” Therefore, politically affiliated persons and firms that enter into contractual agreements with government should play by the rules.
That said, the BO is a very essential tool with immense potential for curbing corruption in Ghana. Ensuring transparency will help companies especially those in the extractive industry achieve governance agendas. Essentially, this is a win-win for all stakeholders involved.
READ ALSO: Ghana’s economy show strong growth prospects
Leave a Reply