On the first anniversary of the Panama Papers leak, OpenOwnership, an online tool to track the true owners of companies, will be released to the public for the first time.
The Panama Papers – which detailed the offshore assets of hundreds of thousands of people across the world, including politicians and heads of state – revealed a complex web of fraud, tax evasion and money laundering. These illicit and illegal activities impose a tremendous drain on global development – squandering resources which could otherwise be used to build schools, health clinics, roads and bridges or to deliver vital social services. These are unacceptably high costs for citizens – and businesses, too.
Gavin Hayman, Executive Director, Open Contracting Partnership said:
“Today’s launch of the Open Ownership Register means there will be one less hiding place for international corruption. When it comes to government dealings with business, there is absolutely no room for secrecy.”
“Tracking the flow of public money in government contracting and knowing who benefits could not be more important. The stakes are high: no government can afford to let funds earmarked for schools, hospitals, and vital services disappear into offshore coffers.”
Seven civil society organizations have come together to create OpenOwnership, the first global, open database of company ownership information, bringing the true owners and beneficiaries of companies into the open. This builds on commitments made by over 40 countries, led by the UK, to tackle corruption. Of these, several countries have committed to or are considering public beneficial ownership registers.
The OpenOwnership Register currently pools beneficial ownership data from the UK and Slovakia as well as data from reports submitted to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). The data available in the platform will continue to grow as more governments implement public company ownership registers, providing users with access to global beneficial ownership information within a single, streamlined platform. Companies are also invited to submit their ownership data, allowing ethical businesses in jurisdictions which do not yet have central public registers to be transparent. The data will be available in an open format for anyone to access, download and reuse, free of charge.
The register will be a powerful tool to help governments crack down on crime and corruption. It will enable companies to understand better who they are doing business with and will empower journalists and civil society to reveal and campaign against injustice.
Grand corruption is a networked problem; to fight it we need a networked solution. By linking beneficial ownership data from worldwide corporate registries and other sources, and allowing a clear, consistent mechanism for data collection, the OpenOwnership Register will provide that solution.
OpenOwnership is driven by the leading transparency NGOs: Transparency International, Global Witness, ONE, the Web Foundation, Open Contracting Partnership, and the B Team, along with OpenCorporates, and funding from the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID).