Ghana’s Companies Act has been amended to make room for the beneficial ownership regime in the country, Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia has said.
A beneficial owner is a person who enjoys the benefits of ownership even though title to some form of property is in another name.
Speaking at a regional conference in Accra on beneficial ownership organised by the Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), local chapter of anti-graft body Transparency International on Thursday, 2 February, on the theme Supporting New Beneficial Ownership Transparency Champions, Dr Bawumia said the discussion was timely for Ghana since President Akufo-Addo has vowed to uproot corruption in his tenure.
“Corruption is very central to the world’s problems and beneficial ownership is one of the surest ways to deal with this canker,” Dr Bawumia said, adding that corruption “decapitates public trust in government and may deepen economic and political woes”.
“President Nana Akufo-Addo has reiterated his commitment to fighting corruption, hence the timing of this meeting is important. Our government has already made it clear that we will be passing the Right To Information (RTI) bill, we will make sure that a Special Prosecutor’s office is set up to prosecute corruption and we will amend the Criminal Code to move corruption from a misdemeanour to a felony,” he said.
He also added,“The issue of beneficial ownership gained worldwide attention in the wake of the Panama Papers, which highlighted massive financial irregularities among others.”
Statistics from the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the World Bank (WB), according to Dr Bawumia, show that $1.25 trillion are paid in bribes and five per cent of global annual GDP, which is about $2.5trillion, are lost through corruption.
He said Oxfam International also says that poor countries lose up to $170billion yearly due to tax evasion and has concluded that a “fraction of this amount could fund health services that could save the lives of almost 150 million children”.
“It is against these staggering numbers that the London Anti-Corruption Summit was organised in May 2016 to get countries to commit to helping fight corruption in their jurisdictions. Ghana’s delegation was led by former President John Dramani Mahama and [he] actively participated in the summit and I wish to use this opportunity to acknowledge this effort,” Dr Bawumia said.
He reiterated the Akufo-Addo government’s “full commitment to provide the needed resources with the support of our development partners to ensure the full implementation of those commitments, which include beneficial ownership, contract transparency, transparency in commodity markets, preventing the facilitation of corruption, transparency in the procurement process, just to mention a few”.
Ghana, compared to her compatriots, Dr Bawumai said, “has made tremendous progress” after last year’s summit in London. “In April 2016, consultative workshops on beneficial ownership were organised for state and non-state actors and the Companies Act has been amended, Act 920, to make provisions for beneficial ownership in Ghana. Ghana EITI, in collaboration with the other critical stakeholders … developed a beneficial ownership roadmap which was submitted to the international EITI Secretariat in December 2016 as part of the deadline set for all EITI implementing countries including Ghana to submit their beneficial ownership roadmaps.”
The vice president said despite the country’s tight fiscal circumstances, the new government will make resources available for the beneficial ownership regime.
“Ghana’s government recognises the huge financial implications of this commitment to our already constrained fiscal space, however, we are resolved to make the needed resources available for Ghana to put in place an effective and efficient beneficial ownership regime.
It must be recognised that in this process where the identities and detailed information of politically-exposed persons and their families will be made publicly accessible, the issue of security will be very key.
As much as the information on politically-exposed persons is very important and critical, we must also be mindful that we don’t compromise the security of these people to the extent that they could become easy targets for criminal activities”.