Why the National Assembly should hold public hearings on the Guyana Forestry Commission

(This is Part Four of a series of five reviewing the reports of the Guyana Forestry Commission for 2005-12 which were tabled in Parliament on November 7th,  2013)

 

 By Janette Bulkan and John Palmer

 

 

In the third article in this series, we offered comments on the general principles for annual reports (ARs) from government agencies and noted peculiarities common in the eight reports from the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC).  In the fourth article in this series, we address some specific topics raised in the eight GFC annual reports (2005-2012) which were tabled in the National Assembly on 07 November 2013.

 

C. specific topics –

 

C1. Inadequate timber tagging and legality verification – during 2005-2012, the GFC has had a number of externally funded projects on timber tracking and tagging.  It is unclear why this task, started in 1999, is still far from complete; see the Efeca report in May 2011 ‘Review of Guyana’s legality assurance system’ which has not been posted to the GFC website but can be obtained from USAID which funded the study.  One reason appears to be the desire of the GFC senior staff to retain the ability to edit data and codes, instead of having the bar-coded data transmitted to externally held database(s) and thus proof against politically- or corruptly-directed tampering with data inside Guyana.  Relevant reports from Liberia are available in summary from the Chatham House website on illegal logging (http://www.illegal-logging.info/ search?query=liberia+tagging+barcodes&title=&field_term_author_name=&from%5Bdate%5D=&to%5Bdate%5D=&field_region=All&items_per_page=10&sort_by=created ).

C2. Inadequacies in support for community forestry associations – also with external funding, the GFC has had projects for community forestry associations.   By 2012, there were 68 such associations.  The table published in the second article in this series reveals no significant changes from year to year in production of chainsawn lumber (primary lumber in GFC tables).  It is not clear how the formation of these associations has changed rural livelihoods or national timber supply but it is alleged that the formation of the associations, and GFC interference in their composition and operation, has exacerbated intra-community relations.  The GFC is not staffed to provide training on association formation and management (for Friendly Societies), business development, money management or product marketing and, with a few exceptions, does not appear to have arranged for other agencies to provide such essential training and mentoring.

C3. Missing publications – nearly all the several externally-funded projects listed in the later ARs would have required specific reports to be prepared, but very few such reports have been published on the GFC website or otherwise made available to stakeholders in Guyana.  Why not?  For example, the case study on log tracking contributed to a FAO report on ‘Search for sustainable forest management: exemplary cases in Latin America and the Caribbean’ (AR 2009, page 29).

It might be excused that so many years have passed since the GFC last tabled a formal AR at the National Assembly that the defects briefly noted here and in the previous three articles in this series, which are by no means exhaustive, should be ignored.  However, the GFC likes to present itself as internationally renowned and knowledgeable, in which case it would be aware of international norms for annual reporting and communications.  Such norms are not reflected in this set of ARs.  Better to have some ARs than none but better still to have punctually-produced, conventionally-structured and more complete reports which reflect the widening range of GFC activities and increasing forest sector impacts, set in the context of parliamentary-approved national policies and strategies.

In the fifth article in this series, we will draw attention to a major omission in the GFC annual reports.

(Editor’s note: The fifth and final part of this series will appear in tomorrow’s edition)

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