Ghana has joined eight other countries to pilot the open extractives programme in a bid to advance beneficial ownership transparency in the country.
Open Extractives aims to make a transformational impact in the amount of publicly available information on the owners of extractive companies.
Currently, the oil and gas and mining sectors are at critical risk of corruption due to the significant revenues stemming from these public assets. Globally, anonymous companies have too often facilitated corruption in the sector, as revealed in a series of scandals from the 2016 Panama Papers to the 2020 Luanda Leaks.
The other eight countries included in this pilot are Argentina, Indonesia, Liberia, Mexico, Mongolia, Nigeria, the Philippines and Zambia.
Speaking on behalf of the Deputy Minister of Finance, Dr. John A. Kumah, at the national launch of the Open Extractives Programme (OEP), Dr. Alhassan Iddrisu, Director of the Economic Strategy Research Division (ESRD) of the Ministry of Finance, stated that corporate anonymity remains the major obstacle in the fight against money laundering, corruption and illicit financial flows.
He said: “The cross-cutting benefits of beneficial ownership transparency in combatting tax evasion and promoting safe trading and investment are also well documented. Governments, citizens, and companies increasingly rely on transparent beneficial ownership data to improve governance, particularly in the natural resource sector.”
Dr. Iddrisu mentioned that the programme is a significant step in government’s efforts to tackle corruption and increase the domestic revenue mobilisation necessary to finance the Ghana Beyond Aid agenda.
“We believe beneficial ownership transparency will enable Ghanaian citizens, CSOs, media, MDAs 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.
“By reducing the scope for corruption, transparency of the beneficial owners of companies increases the chances that revenue from extractive projects will be used for development rather than enrichment of the few,” he said.
Beneficial ownership transparency also stands to benefit companies by supporting them with better data to perform their due diligence.
The Director stated that as government continues to prioritise improving the investment climate, beneficial ownership transparency can help boost investor confidence about the ease of doing business in Ghana.
Since Ghana made a public commitment during the 2016 London anti-corruption Summit, beneficial ownership agenda has gained increased political commitment across subsequent governments.
There have been engagements among national stakeholders and global partners to develop the requisite legal framework to institutionalise ownership disclosure. For instance, government in 2019 supported the Ministry of Justice and the Registrar-General’s Department (RGD) for a new Companies’ Act, 2019 (Act 992) to be passed by Parliament with a view to enhancing ease of doing business and reducing opacity.
From October 2020, companies are mandated to disclose their beneficial owners through a central register hosted by the Registrar-General’s Department.