43 countries publish roadmaps to disclose the real owners of companies in oil, gas and mining by January 2020. 20 commit to public registers.
The EITI Standard requires that companies that “bid for, operate or invest in extractive assets” should publicly disclose the identity of their beneficial owners. Over the past month, 43 EITI countries have published their plans for how to disclose the real owners of companies in their extractive sector by January 2020. These roadmaps outline why countries are taking action and how to get there.
Deterring corruption, tax evasion and money laundering; creating a stable investment environment; and increasing state revenue; are some of the issues EITI countries aim to address through information on beneficial ownership.
The roadmaps are in many cases the first time EITI members have considered the policy steps for beneficial ownership transparency. As a result, 20 countries have committed to making beneficial ownership data available through a public register. While other organisations and countries are debating the pros and cons of public disclosure, these commitments put the EITI in the forefront of the global movement to tackle hidden ownership.
Who will be responsible?
In many cases, public filing processes for company data already exist and can be expanded to also include beneficial ownership information. For example, license cadastres which already request and disclose information on companies with licenses in the country can be expanded to include ownership information.
DRC, Ghana, Guinea, Kyrgyz Republic, Madagascar, Mali, Nigeria, Ukraine and the UK have already decided which agency will be in charge of beneficial ownership transparency. This includes company registration offices and the institutions in charge of the extractive sector or the licensing authorities.
It many cases a strong legal framework might be necessary to mandate beneficial ownership disclosure. Most EITI countries plan to amend sector legislation, for instance mining or petroleum laws, while some are planning to introduce beneficial ownership transparency through amendments to company laws or other dedicated legal instruments. Countries like Nigeria are exploring ways to do both.
What else are countries planning to do?
While the road to 2020 will be long, here are some of the different actions and issues countries will undertake and consider in the coming time:
- Papua New Guinea plans to apply beneficial ownership disclosure requirements to landowner companies involved in extractives.
- In Sierra Leone, an informal inter-agency working group consisting of relevant agencies such as the Corporate Affairs Commission, Financial Intelligence Unit and sector-specific regulators has been established, and has made progress on identifying opportunities for legal reforms.
- Mongolia is planning to establish a network of investigative journalists to interrogate the beneficial ownership information resulting from the reporting.
- Outreach related to beneficial ownership in Malawi will be focussed on companies, and the roadmap proposes to designate the Chamber of Mines to serve as a forum for company capacity building.
- Several countries including Nigeria and Zambia will make beneficial ownership data files coded or tagged so that the information can be compared with other publicly available data.