Strengthening formal control and oversight institutions is a common policy prescription for addressing corruption in natural resource sectors and escaping from the resource curse. Reflecting on two recent biofuel land deals in Ghana, we problematize this approach and argue that contested notions of land entitlements provide leeway for powerful local actors to re-invent customs aimed at justifying the appropriation of valuable resources at the expense of weaker groups. In Ghana, where rival institutions jostle for authority to control natural resources, generating desirable outcomes requires more than tightening existing controls or creating new regulations. Collaborative approaches are needed where the limits of powers and specific roles of different actors are clearly defined in new political settlements.