There are conflicting objectives between the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism and Prime Minister’s Office (Regional Administration and Local Government) in the management of forests, one of the factors holding back the sector, the Controller and Auditor General (CAG) has revealed.
The CAG, Ludovick Utouh, pointed out the shortfall in his report entitled “Performance Audit on Management of Forest Harvesting by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism,” which was officially unveiled in Dodoma last week.
According to Utouh, there is no signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry regarding administration of harvesting of forests at the district levels. District administrations are under the PMO.
“In our investigations, we found that the two authorities have conflicting objectives on forest management,” said CAG.
“At the district level, emphasis is more on reaching and preferably exceeding, minimum annual revenue collection targets even if that would mean harvesting more forests…so, more pressure is placed on forest officers to issue licenses as a means to increase revenue to the district,” he said.
However, CAG said forest officers in the ministry want to maintain upper limits by harvesting volumes based on sustainable yield models.
“In most districts, despite of efforts to collect more revenue from forestry, they do no invest adequately in the forest sector in terms of development expenditures,” he said.
During the audit Utouh noted that there was no clear protocol indicating the sharing of responsibilities and communication between the two public offices.
“As a result strategies and activities on the resources are not harmonised and at times contradict,” observed CAG report.
“This and many other factors contributed, to a greater extent, to the poor performance of the forest sector, coupled with illegal harvesting which leads to environmental destruction, drought, loss of government revenue to the tune of billions.”
CAG report also cited serious weaknesses in the allocation of resources by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, saying: “Allocation of resources — financial, human and equipment — is not done objectively by the ministry.”
He explained that the ministry allocates resources arbitrarily through discussions and agreement based on the current demand, contrary to the best practices.
According to Utouh, the ministry has not documented the criteria and formula for allocating funds, staff and equipment to the Forest Surveillance Units (FSUs).
The ministry is also unable to determine whether checkpoints and FSUs were under or over-achieving, noting that this is partly due to the fact that the ministry does not effectively and regularly analyse reports from checkpoints and FSUs to determine their performance.
It also noted that FSU teams have not adequately imparted awareness to villagers living close to forests. Many communities living near forests do not have contacts such as phone numbers of the FSU staff to enable them report any illegal activity, added the CAG in his report.
The stipulated and enforced fines and penalties for apprehended illegal dealers in forest products were relatively low, it was revealed. “The low fines do not act as deterrent to illegal traders in forest products,” said Utouh.
CAG report also pointed out that the ministry has no checkpoints in sensitive harvesting areas such as Morogoro, Kigoma, Mbeya etc, as the audit revealed that out of the 28 checkpoints erected by the ministry, 16 (more than 60%) are located in Dare es Salaam and Coast Regions.
On specific monitoring and evaluation weaknesses on the management of the forest resources, the CAG said guidelines on sustainable forest harvesting are not fully followed. The District Forest Harvesting Committees do not hold meetings every four months to discuss the harvesting trend as required by the guidelines, observed Utouh.
“Even officials from the ministry headquarters do not conduct a periodical monitoring of forest harvesting activities by visiting districts that harvest forests. As a result, the ministry does not know the real situation on the ground regarding forest harvesting,” said Utouh.
“District forest officers rarely visits the harvesting areas and most of them do no check harvesting logs at source as required by the law and guidelines…in most cases, rubber-stamping is done after the harvested logs or timber have moved to landing sites or sometimes moved to district forest office,” stated part of the report.