“There is no effective controls in the forestry sector…legal tree cutting accounts for only 4 per cent,” the CAG, Ludovick Utouh, told reporters here yesterday when he unveiled Performance Audit Report on the Management of Harvesting Forests by Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism.

Illegal forest harvesting is increasingly become a big problem, due to poor planning and lack of control strategies on part of the responsible ministry, Utouh noted.

Disclosing the findings further, he said many forest reserves in the country were without forest management plans (FMP).

According to him, FMPs serve as the basis for monitoring and evaluation of management practices as well as policy, legislation and programme review.

“Besides, there is evidence to confirm that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism assesses and documents implementation and quality of existing forest management plans.

However, he added: “It is difficult for the ministry to assess the quality of FMP because the guidelines lack clear directives on how the assessment should be done.”

Poor documentation, he said, partly explains why the ministry is not able to adequately monitor and evaluate the performance of districts when it comes to implementation of forest projects.

Another challenge observed during the audit, according to him, is the insufficient number of staff at Forestry and Beekeeping Division (FBD) to carry out evaluation of the quality of FMPs and making implementation follow ups.

He explained that forest harvesting licences were dished out even in the absence of approved FMP, one of the requirements for a forestry authority to grant the document for the harvesting of forest products.

He criticised the mechanism set by the ministry to control issuance of licences at district level, saying it was not effective, as it creates loopholes for districts to issue the document and even transit passes in the absence of approved FMPs.

“It was impossible to control forest harvesting without having an approved FMP,” he cautioned.

The audit also revealed that the Natural Resources and Tourism ministry does not adequately monitor forest harvesting activities to ensure the set controls were functioning well.

CAG’s investigation further noted that there was a tendency for objectives and focus regarding forest management to differ between the districts and the ministry, as a result strategies and activities on the resources were not harmonised.

“We also found that there is no clear protocol indicating the sharing of responsibilities and communication between the two public offices,” he added.

By JUDICA TARIMO, The Guardian