Rosewood Committee asks BNI to do forensic audit of Ghana CITES Secretariat

Last week Friday, the Committee set up by the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources to investigate allegations of collusion and corruption by government officials in aiding illegal rosewood cutters and exporters found none of the officials mentioned culpable. However, the Committee is asking the Bureau of National Investigation (BNI) or any other State Intelligence Agencies to conduct a forensic audit at the CITES Secretrariat to establish the veracity of the allegations.

The Committee also asked for similar audit of companies that export rosewood to Vietnam using documentation different from what was issued by the CITES Secretariat.

The action of the Ministry was in response to specific findings made against officials of the Forestry Commission by the Washington-DC based organistation Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).

The investigative report by the EIA titled BANBOOZLED: New report exposes institutionalized timber trafficking in Ghana was published July 2019.

The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Kweku Asomah Cheremeh in a press briefing last week, shared highlights of the report with journalists in Accra.

The press briefing was coming exactly one-week after a investigative report titled: Ghana and the rosewood curse  which looked at the impact of illegal rosewood logging on the country’s three regions of the north – Northern, Savannah and North East Regions.

The Committee says it doubts estimates of the volume of rosewood harvested from Ghana as published by the EIA. It says it assesses that the actual Rosewood timber harvest for the period 2012 -2019, is 489,766 (Four Hundred and Eighty-Nine thousand, Seven Hundred and Sixty-Six) trees and not Six Million as inaccurately stated by the EIA.

“The EIA methodology used in the calculation of number of trees harvested in Ghana is not based on scientific principles and cannot be accepted. The Committee on the other hand, admits that there are significant differences between the volumes of Rosewood timber imported by China and exported by Ghana, due principally to the deliberate misclassification and misdeclaration by Freight Forwarders, as a result of a lack of institutional capacity in GRA-Customs in relation to timber species identification,” it said., has obtained the report of the Committee.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

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