Company ownership register to be ready 2023 — Finance Ministry

BY: Edward Acquah
Dr Steve Manteaw - Co-Chairman of the Ghana Extractive and Transparency Initiative. EDNA SALVO-KOTEY
Dr Steve Manteaw - Co-Chairman of the Ghana Extractive and Transparency Initiative. EDNA SALVO-KOTEY

The Ministry of Finance has expressed optimism that the Beneficial Ownership Register being compiled by the Registrar General’s Department will be made available to the public by 2023.

The register is to promote transparency in the award of contracts and business transactions.

The ministry said the availability of such data would also boost investor confidence, enhance the ease of doing business in the country and consequently reduce the risks in business transactions.

In an address at the virtual launch of the Opening Extractives Programme (OEP) in Accra, the Director of Economic Strategy and Research of the Ministry of Finance, Dr Alhassan Iddrisu, said corporate anonymity remained a major obstacle in the fight against money laundering, corruption and illicit financial flows.

“We believe the beneficial ownership transparency will enable Ghanaian citizens, civil society organisations (CSOs), media and authorities to know who owns and controls companies and, therefore, be able to hold companies and individuals accountable and reduce the scope of corruption,” he said.

The OEP aims at transforming the availability and use of beneficial ownership information for effective governance in the extractive sector.

The five-year programme is jointly being implemented by the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EiTi) and Open Ownership, a non-profit organisation, with support from the Ministry of Finance and the Registrar General’s Department.

Beneficial ownership is the real persons that benefit from the dividends of companies and not those who front or named as directors during the registration of the business.

Beneficial owners are, therefore, the real owners and beneficiaries of businesses.

Register

The Beneficial Ownership Register is expected to keep accounts of politically exposed persons and others who are owners or beneficiaries of certain companies but keep their identities anonymous when bidding for government contracts.

Dr Iddrisu said the government had provided the legal framework for the effective implementation of the Beneficial Ownership Transparency (BOT) policy, citing the passage of the new Companies Act, 2019 (Act 992) as a major step in the implementation process.

He called for more inter-agency cooperation and stakeholder engagement to make the OEP successful.

“Since October 2020, companies have been mandated to disclose their beneficial ownership information through a central register hosted by the Registrar General’s Department. Our hope is that we will be able to develop clear pathways to ensure that the central register is made publicly available by 2023 and continue to improve the comprehensiveness of the data,” he added.

Benefits of register

In a video message, the Registrar-General, Mrs Jemima Oware, said the Beneficial Ownership Register had resulted in the timely availability of beneficial ownership information for use in anti-corruption efforts.

She revealed that since the creation of the register, a number of competent authorities and anti-corruption agencies such as the Economic and Organised Crime Office and the Office of the Special Prosecutor had sourced information from the register to conduct their operations.

She said as part of measures to enhance the comprehensiveness of the data generated, the department was working to upgrade its systems and to create an online portal where the public could submit and access beneficiary ownership information conveniently.

“Upgrading our system will allow us to have unhindered online access to beneficial ownership information. It will also ensure timely access to data by competent authorities and the public at large,” she said.

The Co-chairman of the Ghana Extractive and Transparency Initiative, Dr Steve Manteaw, called for effective collaboration between the Registrar General’s Department and other relevant institutions to ensure that data collected for the register was comprehensive and reliable.