Stringent punishments instituted for beneficial ownership defaulters

Madam Jemima Oware, Registrar General

Effective 2020, companies and business entities submitting their annual returns to the Registrar General Department (RGD) will be required to provide comprehensive information on beneficial ownership of their respective entities.

The Department has inserted this legal requirement and its punishments into the New Companies Act, 2019 which received presidential assent last Friday. This is expected to ensure transparency in doing business in the country as well as assisting authorities to counteract money laundering, tax evasion, and stemming illicit financial flows.

For instance, where a person fails to provide the information required or gives false and misleading information, it is deemed as an offence liable on summary conviction to a fine of not less than fifty penalty units and not more than two hundred and fifty penalty units. Such persons can also face imprisonment for not less than one year and not more than two years or even both fines and imprisonment.

Where a company defaults in complying, it is liable to pay an administrative penalty of twenty five penalty units for each day beginning from the first day the offence was committed. In monetary value, twenty five penalty units is equivalent to GHc300.00.

According to the RGD, information given on beneficial ownership disclosure submitted in the process will thoroughly be investigated in collaboration with anti-corruption institutions such as the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) to ensure that the information provided is completely factual.

To ensure effective implementation of this legal requirement next year, the department has already met with technical stakeholders from all the sectors to set minimum thresholds applicable for each sector. In the coming weeks, the Department is expected to report back to the stakeholders on the threshold fixed for each sector.

Speaking exclusively with the Goldstreet Business, the Registrar General, Madam Jemima Oware said her outfit is starting a pilot project on beneficial ownership data collection with state institutions in the extractive industry – comprising the Mineral Commission, Petroleum Commission, Ghana National Petroleum Corporation – on the basis that they have such data already.

“Our mandate is to develop the system and have it ready by January 2020. Within this period, we will start more sensitization of companies to start collecting data at their registered office”, she noted.

According to the RGD, after the register on beneficial ownership is developed properly and with all the requirements and specifications set, then the actual month for commencement in the implementation year will be announced for companies and business entities to comply with.