Journalists, CSOs learn investigative skills to cover beneficial ownership in Ghana

A group photograph of the organisers, facilitators and participants.

Under the Opening Extractives (OE) programme, a four-day capacity building workshop was held for some selected journalists, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), and academics, from across Ghana, on beneficial ownership.

The participants were trained on using investigative journalism and other tools to cover beneficial ownership. The training was held in Abokobi, Ghana from February 21 to 24, 2022.

The programme was aimed at raising awareness on the existence and importance of quality and timely beneficial ownership data, and sharing skills, tools and methodologies including investigative journalism techniques to analyse and publish this data.

The rationale behind the OE is to strengthen the capacity of participants to analyse and utilise beneficial ownership data to improve natural resources advocacy and governance, in Ghana.

The OE programme is an ambitious global programme aiming to transform the availability and use of beneficial ownership data for effective governance in the extractive sector.

It combines political and technical engagement, to support countries implementing beneficial ownership reforms and to enable the use of the data by governments, civil society and companies.

It is premised on the understanding that beneficial ownership data alone does not deliver these outcomes, but without it, the chances of success fall significantly.

The four-day workshop was jointly delivered by the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and Open Ownership, in collaboration with Ghana’s Registrar General’s Department (RGD) and the Ghana Opening Extractives National Steering Committee.

The sessions were facilitated by industry practitioners including journalists, extractive sector experts as well as officials of RGD.

Some participants during breakout sessions.

Among the facilitators were Emmanuel K. Dogbevi, the Managing Editor of Ghana Business News, who is also the Executive Director of NewsBridge Africa, and Editor-in-Chief of The Fourth Estate, Manasseh Azure Awuni. These two experienced investigative journalists who have done some work on beneficial ownership shared their knowledge and expertise with the participants, including step by step processes in investigating companies.

Other facilitators included Edwin Wuadom Warden of the EITI Africa Secretariat, Favour Ime, Regional Associate, Africa Open Ownership, Agustina De Luca, Data Engagement Manager, Open Ownership, Dr. Steve Manteaw, the Multi Stakeholder Group co-Chair, Integrated Social Development Centre and Publish What You Pay Ghana, some significant officials of the Registrar General’s Department, and Samuel Osei Bekoe, economist and governance expert and OE Programme consultant.

Ghana, since 2016, has made high-level commitments on BO disclosures on both international and domestic platforms.

Consequently, the Ghana government has demonstrated its commitment through the introduction of a new Companies Act, under which the RGD is mandated to maintain a comprehensive BO register for all sectors.

The institutionalisation of an effective BO regime in Ghana is expected to advance the national priorities to enhance transparency in its business environment, reduce corruption and increase domestic revenue mobilisation.

Currently, all entities are required to submit their beneficial ownership information to the RGD during incorporation and filing of their annual returns.

Even though the speed of reform has resulted in significant milestone achievements, there remain challenges and gaps in the current BO disclosure implementation.

These include public awareness of BO, accessibility for various stakeholders, and technical verification of the data.

It is against this background that the training for civil society actors, journalists and academicians is seen as timely, and envisaged to deepen transparency and accountability, particularly in the extractive sector.

By Kizito Cudjoe

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