A win for transparency

The Department of Trade and Industry has accepted a parliamentary submission by the Mail & Guardian arguing for greater transparency in the new Companies Bill.

The M&G; Who Owns Whom, which publishes South Africa’s leading guide on company ownership; and the African Economics Journalism Centre at Rhodes University jointly petitioned Parliament’s trade and industry committee earlier this month to retain provisions found in the current Companies Act allowing access to securities registers.

The Act allows any member of the public to inspect a company’s register of members, meaning company ownership is transparent. The Bill, as drafted, only explicitly gave that right to holders of securities in the company concerned.

The M&G argued that transparency of company ownership is essential for analysing the nature of economic power and the structure of the economy, to monitor the advancement of BEE and claims about broad-based BEE shareholding, and to ensure good corporate governance.

The department, which led the drafting process, last week submitted to the committee its reaction to submissions. It said it supported the retention of public access to registers and a call by the M&G and its partners to empower the proposed company ombudsman to resolve disputes over access.

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