The Registrar-General’s Department (RGD) has begun implementing the recently drawn up Beneficial Ownership regime in accordance with the Companies Act 2019 (Act 992) following the completion of its upgrade of its electronic register to enable the RGD receive the data.
Effectively therefore, the Department’s B.O. electronic register has gone live to enable companies file their respective beneficial ownership data to the Registrar General.
Regarding this initiative, the RGD has designed three specific forms to facilitate the collection of beneficial ownership data, these being that of Company with Shares; Company Limited by Guarantee and External Company.
This is a major step being taken to enable the country meet its commitments to strategic measures towards complying with the 2016 Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) global conference resolution which makes beneficial ownership disclosure mandatory for all EITI implementing countries, of which Ghana is a member. This subsequently gives member countries up to January 2020 to fully operationalize the disclosure regime.
The move is expected to assist authorities to effectively counteract money laundering and tax evasion, while also stemming illicit financial flows. In line with Ghana’s commitment to use transparency as a tool for fighting corruption, some analysts have agreed that the new beneficial ownership regime will help to identify the true owners of all companies.
“The RGD will keep a central register of the true and actual owners of all companies in manual and electronic format”, the Department reports.
In July 2019, the Registrar General, Madam Jemima Oware constituted a technical stakeholder forum to fix thresholds for beneficial ownership disclosure for all the various sectors being incorporated into the new Companies Law.
One area that stakeholders critically examined under the regime is Politically Exposed Person (PEP), and as such, this has been incorporated as companies have been tasked to provide further details on such people and also give the nature of their connection to the company.
However, where a person fails to provide the information required or gives false and misleading information, it will be 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 will also be 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 GHc30
The current Companies’ Act, 2019 is expected to streamline the corporate regulatory framework to contribute immensely in ensuring transparency in the ease of doing business in the country.