EITI reports growing commitment to beneficial ownership transparency

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The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) has observed a growing global commitment towards beneficial ownership transparency. The international watchdog said earlier this month that over 110 countries have now committed to the publication of beneficial ownership information for companies across the extractive industries, including oil and gas.

Speakers at the Beneficial Ownership Transparency Forum this month had made the point that increasing the number of registers in existence creates a “network effect,” whereby companies that wish to undertake due diligence on business partners can readily access information on their ownership.

At that forum, speakers had also shared insights on how public registers of beneficial owners can be used to build trust, combat corruption, and fight financial crime.

It was pointed out that companies should take lessons from nations like the United Kingdom which is one of the growing number of countries that requires all businesses to name the individuals who ultimately own, control, and benefit directly from them.

“It was, therefore, a fitting venue for a unique gathering of representatives from extractive, accounting and professional service companies, civil society organizations, and governments. The purpose of the forum was to commit to further progress on the publication and use of beneficial ownership data,” the EITI stated.

“The bus is leaving the station, you might as well be on it,” declared the UK Prime Minister’s anti-corruption champion, John Penrose MP, outlining progress towards transparency by sector and by country. “Starting with extractives, it is off to a brilliant beginning.”

As it relates to beneficial ownership transparency in Guyana, the government is searching for a consultant to conduct a comprehensive GYEITI beneficial ownership register scoping study. Samuel Bekoe, a beneficial ownership register expert, has submitted a tender to secure this project. Bekoe has worked with several African countries in this area.

Meanwhile, Nigeria has been an early mover in recognizing the importance of publishing data on the beneficial owners of companies. According to Prince Clem Agba, Minister of State, Budget and National Planning in Nigeria, while Nigerian law mandates the Corporate Affairs Commission to collect and publish information on the beneficial owners of companies, Nigeria’s experience is that many companies still need to be convinced of its significance.

Support will be provided to improve the data registry in Nigeria through Opening Extractives, a global programme delivered by the EITI and Open Ownership that will transform the availability and use of beneficial ownership information. Furthermore, Nigeria is one of approximately 12 countries that will benefit from the legal and technical support of Opening Extractives, which was launched at the forum.

From a civil society perspective, Suneeta Kaimal, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Natural Resource Governance Institute, highlighted the existence of a network of international non-governmental organizations which support the use of beneficial ownership data. She noted the importance of data use, without which beneficial ownership data risks being “yet another inert data point.”

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