A study conducted on the forestry plantation and timber sectors has revealed that very minimal contribution of the Forest Plantation Development Fund (FPDF) is being allocated to Ghana’s plantation development.
This was jeopardising the existence of the timber industry as the findings of the report described the contribution from the FPDF to the sector as “minimal and unsatisfactory”.
The report, thus, commissioned by the Nature and Development Fund (NDF), a non-governmental organisation, was generated from “the Review and Analysis of Receipts and Disbursements of Levies Earmarked for Restoration of Forest and Areas Planted under the Levies” and was made available at a validation workshop in Accra on Wednesday.
The study formed part of the project being implemented by the NDF, dubbed, “Building the Capacities of Small-Medium Scale Enterprises (SMFEs) in Ghana and Liberia to supply and trade in legal timber,” which was being funded by the UKaid under its forest Governance Market and Climate (FGMC) Programme.
Mr Glen Asomaning, Project Director, said the NDF commissioned the TaylorCrabbe Initiative, a consultancy firm, to carry out the study to review disbursements of levies meant for forest plantation establishment and the area planted under the levies, which were put mainly into the two funds.
He said the timber sector for a long time was contributing between four to six per cent to GDP but for some time now, the sector was experiencing shortages and lack of raw materials, making many of the companies to fold up, and therefore, the need to focus on plantations, which had been known “to be the way forward”.
He said such a study, would also support Government’s effort at promoting transparency in the allocation of forest resources, management and regulation of utilisation of the forest estate as well as the enforcement of forest laws.
“A lack of these affect the sustainability of the forest, on which the forest related businesses depended. One form of transparency and accountability that must interest industry is how taxes and levies specifically meant for reforestation are applied.
“These taxes are paid by industry and it is imperative to investigate how much forest has been added to the national stock in the form of plantations”.
“Our goal is that we will have sustainable plantations that will provide sufficient resources to provide materials for the companies, jobs for the people, and of course, forest for the sustainability of the environment and then the communities as well,” Mr Asomaning explained.
Mr Clement Akapame, Lead Consultant, TaylorCrabbe Initiative, who presented the findings via zoom, said, among the major findings were that knowledge of the existence of the Forestry Commission / Timber Industry Fund was more appreciated among industry players with the appropriate guidelines on the disbursement of the fund produced by a Committee.
The Fund, however, did not have statutory backing but was only established on the agreement of Industry and the Forestry Commission since 2010.
He said the report also indicated that Accounts of the Forestry Commission and the Timber Industry Fund were audited regularly, while the current balance stood at GHS¢139,895 as at May 31, 2020.
On the other hand, there was very little knowledge of the operations and activities of the FPDF among the industry players, with no knowledge of the amount of money in the Fund.
There was also no knowledge of other sources of funding apart from the export levy, no reports received on the uses of the fund so far, no publications of audits and knowledge of the annual reports of the FPDF, while there was also no publication of the criteria for the disbursement of moneys from the Fund.
The study therefore, recommended the development of a legal framework for the establishment and management of the two Funds; while amending the law to require regular audit of them and their publications.
It also called for the amendment of the law to reconstitute the membership of the FPDF to include representatives from the Forestry Commission, Timber Industry and civil society for proper management.
Mr Mustapha Seidu, Director of NDF, said the report of the study would consider the feedback from participants at the validation workshop in its final report.