Beneficial Ownership Takes the Stage in Ghana

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Funke Olaode

Worried by the extent of challenges posed to Africa by non-disclosure of Beneficial Ownership Information of companies towards establishing a legal system that collects and publishes crucial corporate information, representatives of government bodies, civil society, the private sector and media from Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria converged on Ghana to address the issue in a workshop tagged “Supporting New Beneficial Ownership Transparency Champions.”

The two-day workshop spearheaded by three not-for-profit organizations: Integrity Initiative (GII), Transparency International (TI) Secretariat, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Nigeria and Transparency International (Kenya) with funding from the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DfID) and 10 international experts who shared their expertise on relevant issues such as beneficial ownership registers, extractives, open data, open contracting and procurement, tax and illicit financial flows deliberated on why all hands must be on deck.

The workshop held within the framework of a Transparency International project, aimed at supporting the realisation of commitments made by the governments of Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria at the UK Anti-Corruption Summit in May 2016 on establishing public beneficial ownership registers was declared open by the Vice-President of Ghana, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia.

Having realised the damage of non-compliance of commitments of the countries involved, after two days of various presentations and discussions, participants led by the conveners of the workshop, Linda Ofori-Kwafo (Ghana), Auwal Ibrahim Musa Rafsanjani (Nigeria) and Kenya Elizabeth Munyefu, recommended that entities doing business (including financial institutions, real estate developers and professional bodies commit to an increased transparency and business integrity by unveiling their Beneficial Owners.

It also suggested that African countries should strengthen the capacity of their institutions, particularly financial institutions, revenue authorities and other public sector organisations responsible for the different levels of negotiations in the extractive sector and in public procurement to ensure there are clear plans to manage corruption, tax avoidance, tax evasion and other financial abuse risks.

To allay the fear of developed worlds that Africa countries are not havens of corruption, participants also recommended that various African countries should translate commitments made at the UK Anti-Corruption Summit into real actions by first passing a legislative framework for beneficial ownership disclosure and further take steps towards actual implementation.

To boost confidence in the citizenry on beneficial ownership information, it was suggested that information must beavailable and easily accessible to citizens of their respective countries in an open data format while ensuring that the security and safety of beneficial owners are not compromised.