… as gov’t officials express confidence in meeting outstanding benchmarks
Managing Director of CAL Bank, Philip Owiredu has called for more visibility of the steps undertaken to bring reforms with regards to anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorist financing (CTF), particularly in the financial sector, as it is crucial for the perception and goodwill of the nation.
“The question really is how do we as a country educate the public to understand the need to comply with measures such as whistleblowing, enhanced due diligence and the implications of not adhering to them’?” he noted at a CalBank organised Leadership Conversation session in Accra.
The event, which was under the theme ‘Greylisting of Ghana by the EU and Anti-Money Laundering deficiencies: Implications and lessons for the Financial Service Sector and the Way Forward’ was centered on understanding the European Union’s decision to grey list Ghana and the measures geared toward addressing deficiencies in the anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorist financing (CTF) regime.
The CalBank MD’s comments are in response to an assurance given by Kwaku Agyemang Kwarteng, Deputy Minister for Finance, that Ghana would meet the three outstanding action points outlined under the joint Action Plan stipulated by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), to address deficiencies in its AML and CTF regime.
“Significant progress has been made in satisfying the conditions which include ensuring the timely access to adequate, accurate and current basic and beneficial ownership information; guaranteeing that the Financial Intelligence Unit (FUI) focuses its activities on the risks identified in the national risk assessment (NRA) as well as applying a risk-based approach for monitoring non-profit organisations,” the Minister said.
“We have a joint action plan that we must follow to get off FATF’s list, that action plan has been in operation for almost two years. We have met all the milestones and we are confident that we will be able to exit FATF’s observation on schedule. By the close of the year, we are confident will complete all the action points within the action plan. The assurance we are giving is that by the close of this year, Ghana will be ready for a review by FATF to get us of its list and then the European Union should follow suit,” he stated.
But according to Mr. Owiredu, inasmuch as the reforms have practical and assessable implications for the nation itself, a dearth of information on these reforms could be detrimental as the country does not exist in a state of complete economic isolation but is dependent on its interactions with other states, who must have a clear idea of what developments are taking place so as to make informed decisions.
In an earlier submission he noted that “This uneasiness associated with the greylisting is compounded if you are a publicly listed company with significant foreign investors. We anticipate that this action will affect the pricing of capital on the international markets and we are cautious of the potential detrimental effect on foreign investment and its effect on industry and wider economy.
He stated that it behooved on institutions such CalBank to lead discussions and raise awareness on the subject, saying, “As part of our engagement with the larger community, we decided to host this programme for us to discuss this topical issue which has wide implications.”
Echoing the sentiments expressed by the Minister, first Deputy Governor of the Bank of Ghana, Dr. Maxwell Opoku-Afari representing the Governor, said that the listing had mitigated against Ghana’s efforts at deepening financial and economic inclusion, eroded sustainable development goals (SDG) advocacy gains as well as downplay the significant measures taken by the Ghana government in recent years to champion the global fight against illicit financial flows.
On efforts by the Bank and other regulators to forestall future relapse he said: “The Bank of Ghana and indeed the other financial sector regulators have also identified and strengthened the supervision of all licensed institutions. In the case of the Bank of Ghana, special focus is on the Special Deposit-taking Intuitions sector to bring them up the requirements of the AML/CTF regime.
He added that post-delisting, the nation is ready to become a leader in the sub-region in addressing AML/CTF issues.
A panel which deliberated on the theme was comprised of the Head of Financial Stability at the Bank of Ghana, Dr. Joseph France; CEO, Financial Intelligence Centre, Kwaku Dua and CEO of the Ghana Association of Bankers, John Awuah.
The discussants stated that Ghana has come a long way with regards to technical compliance, as legal and institutional frameworks have been instituted but noted that enforcement has so far remained the Achilles’ heel of these efforts.
They also revealed the significant steps being taken to spread the net of thorough regulation of capture Designated Non-Financial Businesses and Professions (DNFBPs) which include Real estate agents, Dealers in precious metals, lawyers, notaries and accountants, which have traditionally been used as channels for money laundering and terrorist financing, as policies are being applied whilst Bills are before the lawmakers.
The event also drew members from upper echelon of law enforcement with Executive Director of the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) COP Frank Adu Poku and Regina Tenge representing the Director-General of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service present.
Other participants include a Deputy Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Deborah Agyemfra; Director of the Cybercrime Unit of the CID, Ghana Police Service, ACP Dr. Gustav Yankson and Dr. Mahama Wayo from the National Insurance Commission.