Deepening BOT: watchdogs trained to save public purse
About 25 Civil Society Organisations and some journalists have been trained on how to deepen efforts on educating the public and unearthing ‘dubious-minded’ business owners on Beneficial Ownership Transparency (BOT).
The four days intensive training was among other intent to raise awareness on the existence and importance of quality and timely Beneficial Ownership (BO) data, and share skills, tools and methodologies to analyse and use these data to improve natural resources advocacy and governance in Ghana.
The program organised by Opening Extractives (OE), in collaboration with the Registrar General’s Department and the Ghana Opening Extractives National Steering Committee, was to improve the investigative and data analysis knowledge base of CSOs and journalists through series of capacity building and training sessions.
“BO is intended to unveil the true natural persons who have interest and benefit from a company. Over the years that has not been our main target”, Samuel Osei Bekoe, a consultant to the Opening Extractives Programme intuited. “Our target has been legal owners of companies. But for Ghana’s commitment to transparency and accountability under the EITI and European Union charter, we have to do ownership disclosure.”
The economist and governance expert listed some of the benefit of BOT in the extractive sector which will help investors and stakeholders know whom they do business with to avoid potential tax avoidance and transfer pricing situations which has dire consequence on a country’s development agenda as it deprives state of needed revenue.
The Opening Extractives (OE) Programme is a global initiative aiming to transform the availability and use of beneficial ownership data for effective governance in the extractive sector. The programme combines political and technical engagement, to support countries implementing beneficial ownership reforms and to enable the use of the data by governments, civil society and companies.
In September 2021, the Government of Ghana committed to implementing and accelerating beneficial ownership disclosure and data use by joining the OE Programme. The Government’s commitment to improve corporate ownership disclosure is aimed at promoting a transparency and conducive business environment and addressing corruption (particularly tax evasion, avoidance and illicit financial flows) in a bid to increase domestic revenue mobilization.
To improve the governance of natural resources, Ghana signed onto the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in 2003 and was admitted as an implementing country in 2007. Since joining the EITI, Ghana has disclosed 10 EITI Reports covering fiscal years between 2004-2018. Ghana EITI reports have included other significant information related to transparency in the extractive industry, such as revenues, contracts, production and crude oil sales.
In 2020, countries participating in the EITI were required to disclose beneficial owners of mining, oil and gas companies.The government enacted the 2019 Companies (Amended) Act, which mandates the Registrar General’s Department (RGD) to collect and maintain a comprehensive beneficial ownership (BO) register for all sectors, including the extractive industry. Ghana EITI reports have also included ownership information, albeit with limited details and coverage.
Despite the political commitment and progress to institutionalise disclosure of beneficial owners, existing information is not yet fully publicly available, nor has it been analysed by data users interested in the field. Opportunities therefore remain to maximise the impact of beneficial ownership by improving not only the quality of BO data disclosed but also the accessibility and usability of the information.