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Mr Vitus Azeem is the National Chairman of Tax Justice Coalition of Ghana

Tax Justice Coalition of Ghana launches Financial Bleeding Register

The Tax Justice Coalition of Ghana has launched a portal, dubbed ‘Ghana Financial Bleeding Register.’

The Ghana Financial Bleeding Register(FBR) is to provide a public database to accurately respond to the collective public amnesia occasioned by the temporal public interest and follow-ups on the numerous tax mismanagementand other corruption related reports.

Launching the Register, the National Chairman of the Coalition of Ghana, Mr Vitus Azeem said the FBR is expected to become the flagship project of the Tax Justice Coalition of Ghana. The project concept, according to him,was borne out of the incessant and overwhelming outpour of media reports on mismanagement and embezzlement of public funds. The intensity and quick succession of the reports is enough to neutralize the remedial actions expected to be the outcome of the high levels of transparency that the media provides, that we have achieved in Ghana.

The practical effect of this situation is that society is not able to fully interrogate and follow up on one corruption issue before another one is reported, and the next reports also follow in quick succession. The torrent of information and the difficulty of deciding which one address or leave is enough to cause inaction and a collective numbness of the entire society. This is the particular picture that one observes about citizens’reactions to numerous reports about mismanagement and theft of tax resources. Absolute numbness. The reports are no longer shocking.

The Register was launches in Accra on Wednesday at a Media Capacity Building Workshop held on the Topic ‘The Beneficial Ownership Disclosure and Right to Information Act: What Role and Opportunities are there for Journalists in Curbing Illicit Financial Flows in Ghana.’

The meeting was put together by the Tax Justice Coalition Ghana and supported by OSIWA.

Mr Bernard Anaba, Coordinator of the Coalition explained the register will be hosted on the website of the Coalitionhttps://tjcghana.org/the-financial-bleeding-register/#with links also to the websites of member organizations of the Coalition. Open-source information and data will be collected and processed through a validation process determined by the Steering Committee of the Coalition and uploaded on to the website of the organization by the Secretariat.

Mr Anaba indicated that information gathered will be publicly available to be viewed by the world.

He added, “the website will have another facility that will allow for crowdsourcing of information to enable members of the Coalition and the public to submit information on mismanagement of tax resources they have become aware of. However, the crowdsourcing aspect of the register will not be immediately available for public viewing until after taken through the verification and validation process. This is to guard against the publication of false information and wrongly injuring the reputations of individuals and institutions.”

He informed participant that the information collected under these headings will eventually be used to generate the half-yearly Ghana Report.

This concept, according to him, departs from the over-reliance on crowd-sourced information as is the case for many social accountability tools deployed in the country presently. Many of such tools have not been able to meet their goals as their success is significantly dependent on computer literate citizens who are also highly engaged in national, community and civic issues.

The Register, Mr Anaba stressed will improve transparency around the utilization of tax resources by public institutions and officials and will also make available for citizens simple, easy to understand and verified information about the utilization of tax resources.

In a Presentation on Ghana’s Beneficial Ownership Register and the Right to Information Act, Dr Steve Manteaw, Policy Analyst at the Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC) saidownership anonymity influences corruption in the extractive industry as it enables some extractive companies to evade tax payment.

Dr Manteaw indicated that hidden ownership poses problems for honest companies “because they don’t know who they are doing business with.  It also creates wealth in the pockets of a few at the expenseof larger society.”

He hinted that Ghana is in the process of compiling a beneficial Ownership Register to be ready by September this year.

On the Right to Information Act,Dr Manteaw said though its implementation will empower citizens to engage competently in development dialogue and ensure prudent use of public resources, he does not think the current form of RTI will  provide any unique opportunities.

“Ghana’s RTI law in its current form, will not fully support efforts at countering Illicit Financial Flows. It is therefore to be used together with other transparency legislations such as the BO, Open contracting, Petroleum register etc in journalists’ quest to safeguardpublic revenues from needless hemorrhage.”

By Mohammed Suleman

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