Ghana and Liberia are the first countries to have officially launched the Opening Extractives Programme, thereby affirming their commitment to ending anonymous company ownership in the extractive sector.
The launches occurred on the heels of a global event held in London last month to kick off the programme, which aims to transform the availability and use of beneficial ownership (BO) data by providing technical and legal support in approximately twelve countries.
Since 2016, successive governments in Ghana have maintained their commitment to beneficial ownership transparency, and since October 2020, companies are mandated to disclose their beneficial owners through a central register. Yet the database is not publicly accessible, and disclosures that are public are not comprehensive or systematic.
At Ghana’s launch event last month, government representatives reinforced that beneficial ownership remains a national priority. Through its participation in the Opening Extractives Programme, the Government of Ghana aims to make its central register public by 2023. The Ghana Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (GHEITI) Coordinator, Bashiru Abdul-Razak, highlighted that GHEITI will continue to work with stakeholders in Ghana on the use of beneficial ownership data for effective governance in the extractive sector. Jemima Oware of Ghana’s Registrar General outlined the need to link Ghana’s central beneficial ownership to a public facing portal.
The Opening Extractives Programme comes at an opportune time as Ghana’s government seeks to strengthen its due diligence processes and anti-corruption work. “We believe beneficial ownership transparency will enable Ghanaian citizens, CSOs, media, Municipal District Assemblies and competent authorities to know who exactly owns and controls companies and therefore be able to ‘follow the money’ and hold companies and individuals accountable,” said a speech read on behalf of Hon John Kumah, Ghana’s Deputy Minister of Finance.
Since 2009, Liberia has taken strides to strengthen natural resource governance to catalyse economic growth. In 2017 the Liberian government made commitments to advance beneficial ownership disclosure and last year passed an Associations Law and Business Corporation Act which provides the legal basis for integrating beneficial ownership disclosure into existing processes.
Liberia’s participation in the Opening Extractives Programme will help to further translate high-level commitments into practice. In a statement of support, Liberia’s Deputy Finance Minister, Samora Wolokollie, underscored that the government sees the programme as a medium to exercise greater transparency over the country’s natural resources. According to Favour Ime, Regional Associate at Open Ownership, “Liberia’s participation in the programme is evidence that the government is committed to strengthening its beneficial ownership transparency efforts.”
At Liberia’s launch event for the programme, speakers further reiterated that beneficial ownership transparency is fundamental in the fight against corruption and illicit financial flows. “A public registry plays a cardinal role in preventing illicit financial flows in a country. It should serve as a gatekeeper and a reservoir of transparency and openness for the Liberian government,” said Edwin Woryonworm Harris Jr, Director General, Financial Intelligence Unit of Liberia.
The Opening Extractives Programme will support Liberia’s efforts in establishing a public register and a regulatory and legislative framework for beneficial ownership disclosure. Jeffrey Yates, National Coordinator of Liberia EITI, shared Liberia’s ambitions to make rapid progress over the coming months to develop regulations and technology to streamline the collection and publication of beneficial ownership data.