Beneficial Ownership Disclosure which is critical in reducing high level corruption and improving transparency and accountability in the oil and gas sector is conspicuously missing in the current Exploration and Production (E and P) Bill lying before the Parliament of Ghana.
This was confirmed by the Deputy Chairman of the Mines and Energy Committee of Parliament, Mr. Mutawakilu Adam when he interacted with editors and reporters in the Eastern regional Capital, Koforidua, recently.
The interaction was during a News and Editorial Symposium organised by Penplusbytes and the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI).
A beneficial owner is the real owner of a company, even though their name may not appear on the shareholder register. Beneficiary Owner Disclosure therefore means revealing the real owner(s) of firms.
He admitted that “Beneficiary Ownership Disclosure is not entrenched in our laws.” Hence, although it “came up strongly” in the discussions of the committee when they were scrutinizing the proposed E and P bill, it could not be catered for in the committee’s amendments.
This was because, “although a good thing, it did not lie with parliament, but the executive.” It is a decision from the executive…Policy initiatives must come from the executive to the parliament” before parliament can debate it and pass it accordingly, he explained.
Mr. Adam who is also the Member of Parliament for Damongo further explained that the amendment of the E and P to include beneficiary ownership disclosure was not sufficient to improve transparency in the country.
He said “If it is done with the E and P Bill, it will only be solving a small part of the issue.” Instead “it must be amended in the company law. What about the mining industry and all other companies.” As and when it is done and brought to parliament, I believe parliament will be ready to pass it.”
He further disclosed that all was not lost because he was aware the executive was committed to the issue of beneficial ownership disclosure. To the extent that some discussions were ongoing to see how to include the concept in the General Companies law which is also being amended?
“Am aware civil society is helping the executive to find a way of including the issue of beneficial ownership in the general Companies Code,” he hinted. He therefore expressed his full support for entrenching beneficiary ownership disclosure in the laws of Ghana; “I support it 100%.”
Dr. Steve Manteaw, Chairman Civil Society Platform on Oil and Gas has also hinted that Ghana is under pressure to meet some international requirements in fighting corruption and improving transparency and accountability. To this end, the country is expected to implement policies and programs that will prevent money laundering, tax evasion, terrorism among others.
Today, 12 May 2016, Ghana together with some selected sister African countries joined the high level Anti-Corruption Summit, hosted by David Cameron (British Prime Minister) in London. Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama is expected to state Ghana’s position on some international corruption issues which will strongly feature Beneficiary Ownership Disclosure.
The Anti-Corruption Summit: London 2016 aims to among other things expose corruption so there is nowhere to hide; punish the perpetrators and support those affected by corruption and drive out the culture of corruption wherever it exists.
That aside, the country is also expected to undergo a review of its policies in fighting anti-money laundering and related international financial crimes in the last quarter of the year. The review will be conducted by the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA).
Failure to meet the benchmarks of GIABA, West Africa’s Version of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), will attract some sanctions which include mass refusal of visas to G8 and other developed countries without explanation.
Dr. Manteaw who is also the Co-Chair of the Ghana Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (GHEITI) believes that the absence of Beneficiary Ownership Disclosure in the E and P Bill when passed into law will take a lot out of the move to improve transparency and accountability and the fight against corruption in the oil and gas sector.
He noted as far as transparency and accountability in the oil and gas sector was concerned the issue of beneficiary ownership disclosure should be non-negotiable for any government.
“Transparency becomes important in this context, because it blows off the cover on corrupt practices and reduces the incentive to be corrupt; It ensures the most prudent use of resources that commonly belong to the people; It helps to eliminate waste, and inefficiencies that thwart our genuine efforts to progress as a people; It fosters democratic debate and promotes national ownership of development initiatives; It promotes accountability.”
CSOs Mount Pressure
Meanwhile, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Ghana have asked President Mahama to use the forum to commit the government to an anti-corruption agenda that will lay the foundation for Ghana’s transformation.
The recommendation was contained in a statement issued by the CSOs at the end of a Dialogue on Anti-Corruption on Extractive Industries organized by the Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP), as a prelude to the UK Anti-Corruption Summit.
They said, “It is our belief that our President who will be among world leaders to address the UK anti-corruption summit, will use this great platform to commit the government to an anti-corruption agenda that will lay the foundation for a transformative society in Ghana, in which official impunity, corruption and mismanagement of public resources will be stopped,”
The statement signed by Dr. Mohammed Amin Adam, Executive Director of ACEP, said the Dialogue considered hotspots for corruption in Ghana and recommended that President Mahama takes 10 specific commitments to ensure that Ghana takes bold steps at eradicating corruption.
Among others, the CSOs recommended that the President commits to “An open and competitive process for awarding oil, gas and mining concessions,” as well as commit to “A mandatory requirement for the disclosure of oil, gas and mining contracts.”
Others include a mandatory requirement for the establishment of a Public Register Of Beneficial Owners in the extractive industries and all their associated interest in Ghana and abroad; a requirement for the criminal prosecution of public officials found to have engaged in conflict of interest during oil, gas and mining licensing and in the regulation of operations; and the passage of the Right to Information Bill.
The rest are the passage of the Petroleum (Explorations and Production) Bill; the Subscription to Open Data Standards across Ministries, Departments and Agencies; the confirmation of appointed Heads of Institutions in time to ensure their independence and security of tenure; Signing on to the Voluntary and Automatic Frameworks for exchange of information to address illicit financial flows; and to effectively implement the National Anti-Corruption Action Plan (NACAP) or transform it into an Anti-Corruption Law.
BY Kwadwo Duodu
New Joint Venture for Africa’s Energy Infrastructure
General Electric (GE) together with the Mara Group and Atlas Merchant Capital are leading an initiative to create a joint venture dedicated to investing in the highly underdeveloped African infrastructure sector.
The joint venture will seek to invest in infrastructure equity projects in selected countries throughout Africa.
Jay Ireland, President and CEO GE Africa, commented: “This joint venture unifies three businesses with a strong commitment and expertise in infrastructure in Africa. The joint venture is our response to an integrated infrastructure approach in Africa. We are proud to partner with the expertise and talent of Atlas Merchant Capital and Mara Group, who have an extensive footprint in Africa, to address the necessities of the African continent. We have been significantly involved in social enterprises to date and will seek to further enhance and promote social and community development in the region to complement their expertise, knowledge and entrepreneurial spirit.”
Ashish J Thakkar, Founder, Mara Group, added: “Africa is a continent of 54 countries, but there is very low connectivity between them. Intra-African trade, a key driver for economic growth, represents only a fraction of Africa’s total trade over the past decade and this is largely due to a growing shortfall in infrastructure development. Through our joint venture with GE and Atlas Merchant Capital, we hope to tackle the funding deficit by creating a platform that has the power to truly change the lives of those living on the continent.”
Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina, President, African Development Bank, said: “We are delighted to see this partnership between three world-class players who, together, can have a real impact on infrastructure development in Africa.
"We all know painfully well the imperative to fill Africa’s annual $50 billion infrastructure funding gap. Partnerships like these are a crucial part of the development agenda as we seek to promote social and economic development and fight poverty in Africa."
The joint venture is well placed to act as a leading shareholder alongside sponsors of infrastructure projects and will use its relationships with lending banks and connectivity to power Africa and related institutions to meet the debt component of its funding.