The Registrar of Companies, Jemima Oware, has stated that it will take effective collaborative efforts between all state agencies that handle data on companies to create an efficient up-to-date beneficial ownership (BO) register.
She explained that usually companies which conceal or do not disclose real beneficial owners or shareholders/directors of their entity may give information to a state agency like the Registrar General’s Department and give differently to the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), Ghana Investment Promotion Commission (GIPC), Ghana Free Zones Authority (GFZA), Minerals Commission in case it is an extractive company, and the MMDAs among others; hence, collaboration will help to flush them out.
Again, she said, it is only when something comes up regarding a particular company and the authorities begin to investigate that these differentials in BO information come out, but with effective collaboration some of these schemes will be easily found out and dealt with appropriately.
“Usually at the time of BO data disclosure, the registrar may not be aware that it is false, and it takes an issue coming out for us to find out. It is the company secretary’s duty to disclose beneficiaries of a company by filing to the Registrar – and there are sanctions for disclosing wrong information. But in such circumstances, the Registrar cannot just determine that the information provided is false unless there is an issue and we collaborate with other agencies which collect BO information,” she said.
Touching on how effective collaboration will work in favour of the country, she said: “If you give BO information to the Registrar of Companies and a different one to the Minerals Commission and later on we cross-check and it turns out that one is telling a lie, there is a penalty for that which comes with an imprisonment term and a fine. So, when people get penalised for these actions the right thing will be done”.
She added that the new online system being created will enable such collaboration, and even enable the Registrar to pick information from the stock exchange market about the shareholders of listed companies, and that will serve as the basis for dealing with defaulters.
She urged businesses which currently have wrong data with the Registrar General’s Department (RGD) to first of all be re-registered, and secondly comply with the new Companies Act 992.
The Registrar emphasised that the process of registering a business at the RGD has been drastically reduced due to the use of automation in executing tasks of such nature – adding that government is bent on making Ghana a business-friendly country by easing the cost and time of doing business in the country, which is why the RGD is sounding the warning that such omissions will no longer be countenanced