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AMA - Business - March 23, 2021

Ghana’s New Companies Act Passed! Here is What to Expect – Part 2

This is the second part of the major changes to company law in Ghana

On 2 August 2019, the President of the Republic of Ghana – Nana Addo Dankwa-Akufo-Addo announced that the long awaited Ghana Companies Act 2019 had been assented into law.

Ghana’s Companies Act, 2019 has been in the works since 2018 and replaces the Companies Act, 1963 (Act 179). At a very high level, the new Act seeks to introduce improved corporate governance standards for companies operating in Ghana. The Act draws on the experience of more developed Jurisdiction  and specifically incudes international best practices from jurisdictions such as the United Kingdom, New Zealand, South Africa and Mauritius.

The impact of the legislation will be felt most
in corporate administration with the creation of the Office of Registrar of
Companies, an autonomous governmental body similar to the United Kingdom’s
Companies House. The Registrar of Companies would operate separately from the
Registrar Generals Department and will be solely responsible for the
registration, regulation and winding up of corporate bodies in the country. The
new Act introduces reforms to company registration and regulation with the overall
aim of simplifying the regulatory framework surrounding the incorporation and
operation of companies while improving existing corporate governance standards
that exist in the country.

6. Stringent
Requirement for Directors

 Ghana’s Companies Act 2019, imposes enhanced corporate governance requirements for directors. The Act criminalizes the situation where persons previously disqualified from acting as directors act in that capacity. The same sanction regime applies to a person who does not qualify to be a director of a company in the first place. The Act also imposes a reporting obligation on the previously disqualified directors to disclose the fact of their disqualification.  The qualification and disqualification criteria for directors is spelt in the Act.

A person is disqualified from holding the
position of director of a company if;

  • the person is convicted of an
    offence involving fraud or dishonesty;
  • it appears that the person may
    have been guilty of a criminal offence whether they were convicted or not;
  • the person commits or is
    convicted of an offence related to insider dealing or any other offence which
    is not a misdemeanor;
  • a person is adjudged bankrupt;
  • the person has been disbarred
    from being part of a recognized professional body as a result of a disciplinary
    action;
  • there is an ongoing criminal
    investigation in which the person is involved.

A person may also be automatically disqualified
from acting as a director where the individual;

  • has been convicted within the
    last 5 years of an offence involving dishonesty, fraud or relating to the
    promotion, formation and running of a company;
  • has been the director or a
    senior executive of a company that became insolvent within the past five (5) years;
  • has been disqualified to act as
    Company Secretary, receiver, manager or liquidator of a company.

The person is automatically disqualified to act
or be appointed as a director of a company for five (5) years. Upon a second
conviction, the person is automatically disqualified for ten (10) years. A third
conviction would render the person permanently disqualified from acting as a
director.

It is important to note that a person previously
disqualified from acting as a director may apply to a court for reinstatement
before the expiration of the five (5) year disqualification period

A person who is disqualified from acting as a
director has to disclose his disqualification or may be liable on summary
conviction to a fine that is presently not less than six thousand (6000) Ghana
Cedis and not more than 12,000 Ghana Cedis or a term of imprisonment of not
less than two (2) years.

Directors are also required to keep an Interests
Register which records all directors’ interests. The Interests Register is to
be available for inspection by members and also during company meetings.

7.    Approval  Processes for Major Transactions

The New Companies Act does not allow a Company
to enter into a major transaction unless the transaction is approved by special
resolution. Major transactions include;

  • The acquisition of or an
    agreement to purchase assets the value of which is more than seventy-five (75) per
    cent of the value of the company’s assets before the transaction;
  • The disposal of or an agreement
    to dispose of assets of the Company valued at more than seventy-five (75) per
    cent of the value of the company’s assets before disposal;
  • A transaction likely to have the
    effect of the company acquiring rights or interests valued at seventy-five (75)
    per cent of the company’s assets before the transaction.
  • A transaction likely to incur
    liabilities including contingent liabilities the value of which is seventy-five
    (75) per cent of the company’s assets before the transaction
8.    Options available to unhappy shareholders

Ghana’s Companies Act 2019 includes a “Buy-out” remedy for dissenting minority shareholders. This is a remedy against minority oppression. Should a dissenting minority shareholder be outvoted on a matter involving the amendment of the constitution of the company, the amendment or dispensation of the registered objects or business activities of the company, the approval of a major transactions, the variation of class rights or the approval of an arrangement, merger or both, that member may require the company to purchase his shares.

To qualify for this relief, the member must have
disapproved of this transaction and voted wholly against the resolution to be
entitled to have their shares bought by other members or by the company itself
subject to restrictions on the company purchasing its shares as stated in the
Act. The Act further sets out the procedure for the determination of a fair and
reasonable price for the disposal of that member’s shares.

The company may apply to the Court for an
exemption to the requirement to purchase its shares in this instance if the
Board resolves that the purchase of its shares by the company may result in the
company becoming insolvent; and the Company has made reasonable attempts to
have the shares purchased by another person but has failed to do so.

9.    Insolvency Provisions

The New Act does not only cover companies which
have been rendered insolvent as a result of financial difficulties and so may be
liquidated by means of official liquidation via The Corporate Bodies (Official
Liquidation) Act (Act 180), but also companies that may be financially viable
but facing temporary hardships or merely wish to close up their affairs. This
Act sees the introduction of private liquidation as an option which allows solvent
companies to opt for a private liquidation or administration as a means of
corporate restructuring or dissolution. The Administration provisions in the
Act, which very much resembles the United States Chapter 11 Bankruptcy
provisions offers companies legislative protection to enable them to resolve
financial hardships through restructuring or administration rather than simply
liquidating otherwise viable companies. Private liquidations may be undertaken
by companies that are solvent but need to be liquidated. The Act also
introduces administration as an option for relieving for distressed companies.

Insolvency and Restructuring provisions may be
found in the Corporate Restructuring and Insolvency Bill which is currently
before parliament and would repeal the Bodies Corporate (Official Liquidation)
Act (Act 180).

10. Beneficial
Ownership and the Central Register

The New Companies Act has an improved beneficial
ownership tracking regime. The Act requires the identification of members and
beneficial owners of companies who are politically exposed persons and the
registration of these relationships in the Central Register kept by the
Registrar of Companies.

The Central Register is a database maintained in
both Electronic and Manual formats by the Registrar of Companies. The Central
Register is available for general viewing of the public. Politically exposed
persons include persons entrusted with prominent public functions in Ghana, a
foreign country or an international organization. Particulars to be filed in
respect of beneficial ownership of a company includes the full name, address
and contact details of the beneficial owner, place of work and position held,
The nature of the interest including the details of the legal, financial,
security, debenture or informal arrangement giving rise to the beneficial
ownership; and confirmation as to whether the beneficial owner is a politically
exposed person and basically, any other information as may be determined by the
Registrar

11.    Rotation of Auditors

Under the New
Companies Bill, there is a requirement for mandatory rotation of auditors of
companies. Auditors of public and 
private companies shall be compulsorily rotated after a six (6) year
term with a cooling-off period of six (6) years. This provision would help
avoid conflicts of interest which may arise out of familiarity due to
excessively long standing audit relationships.

12.    Derivative Actions

The New Companies Act enables companies to
enforce the rights of the Company through derivative actions. Shareholders may
apply to the Court for leave to bring an action in the name and on behalf of
the Company to enforce the rights or recover assets belonging to the Company.
This strengthens the capacity of shareholders to hold directors accountable for
their actions. This rule is a revolutionary development in the protection of
minority and shareholder rights. A derivative action enforces the company’s
rights separate from the rights of the shareholders and may prevent the
directors from abusing their fiduciary responsibilities to the Company in favour
of one or more majority shareholders. It provides a remedy to shareholders who
wish to hold the directors of the company to account but may otherwise be unable
to bring proceedings because the directors refuse to bring or maintain such
proceedings on behalf of the company.

13.    The Companies Bulletin

The Ghana’s Companies Act 2019, introduces a publication to be known as the Companies Bulletin. The Companies Bulletin is a publication made by the Registrar of Companies similar to the Gazette, but solely managed and published by the Registrar of Companies. The Report would be maintained as a secured electronic database and made accessible in hard and electronic copies.

The Bulletin would contain notifications in
respect of companies such as;

  • Publication of fees for the
    Registrar of Companies
  • Change of name
  • Court orders in respect of stay
    of proceedings concerning insolvency proceedings 
  • Notices striking company names
    off the register of companies
  • Notice of appointment or
    removal of liquidators
  • Notice of official liquidation
    proceedings in respect of companies
  • Notice of conversion of a
    private company to a public company
  • Particulars of documents to be
    filed with the Registrar by external companies including the name, nature of the
    business, details of share capital, address of foreign principal office/branch,
    address of the local branch, name and address of local manager etc
  • Notice of winding up of
    external companies
  • Resolutions of companies in
    respect of private liquidations
  • Court orders in respect of
    persons disqualified from acting as company secretaries, directors or in senior
    management roles
  • Details of unclaimed dividends
    of companies transferred to the Registrar of Companies for safekeeping
  • Notices in respect of companies
    that have filed annual returns

The Registrar of Companies may by regulation
provide for the payment of fees in respect of matters to be published in the Companies’
Bulletin and may alter those fees when necessary.

14.    Registration, Communication and Service by
Electronic or Digital Means

Ghana’s Companies Act 2019 gives the Registrar of Companies the power to authorize the following transactions electronically or digitally, through an electronic system approved by the Registrar;

  • the incorporation or
    registration of a company
  • the reservation of a company
    name
  • the filing of particulars
  • the conversion of a company
  • the filing of annual returns
    and financial statements
  • the keeping and maintenance of
    a register
  • arrangements, mergers,
    amalgamations and sale of undertakings
  • the removal of a company’s name
    from the register upon cessation, dissolution and liquidation
  • reports on statistical data on
    companies
  • the inspection of a register
  • the registration of debentures
  • the transfer of debentures
  • the registration of a contract
    or agreement for the allotment of shares;
  • the registration of charges;
  • keeping of books of accounts;
  • the service of a notice of the document;
  • the dissolution of a company;
  • searches on a company register;
  • an offer to be made to the
    public or an invitation to make an offer to the public;
  • payment of fees;
  • the filing of notice or
    document; and
  • the performance of any act or
    thing required to be done concerning all the services above listed

Also read the Part one of the New Companies Act

Disclaimer:   While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. An earlier version of this publication was published on www.ghanatalksbusiness.com

Insolvency Act, Audreygrey, ghanatalksbusiness.com
Audrey Naa Dei Kotey, Managing Partner AudreyGrey.

Audrey is a qualified lawyer, and the managing partner of AudreyGrey, a legal, tax and compliance firm in Accra. A member of the Ghana Bar Association, her areas of expertise are corporate and commercial law, taxation, labour and insolvency law. She has previously worked as an associate at PricewaterhouseCoopers (Gh) Ltd and a law firm N Dowuona and Co in Accra. She is a member of and serves as the legal advisor to the Ghana Association of Restructuring and Insolvency Advisors (GARIA) where she assisted with drafting and policy formulation for the new Companies Act and Corporate Insolvency Bill. An experienced Chartered Accountant and a member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, ACCA (UK) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants, Ghana (ICAG). She is currently pursuing the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIT) certification. 

Contact : Tel: 0302913994, 0244631938, Email : info@audreygrey.co
Web : www.audreygrey.co

The post Ghana’s New Companies Act Passed! Here is What to Expect – Part 2 appeared first on Ghana Talks Business.

Ghana Talks Business

Source : African Media Agency (AMA)

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