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23.03.2007 General News

Scandal Rocks Forestry C’ssion

By Daily Guide

•7 Pocket ¢10 Billion

The Management of Forest Services Division has taken a hard stance on some of its staff and a number of companies that were involved in acts that caused government to lose over ¢10 billion to cheats.

After investigating several cases of illegal felling of timber in the Tano Offin Shelter Belt Forest Reserve of Nkawei and other irregularities in Cape Coast, a Committee of Enquiry has recommended the summarily dismissal of six Range Supervisors and a forest guard.

They are Annor Effah, Philip Owusu Amoah, Jojo Strokes, Emmanuel Adams, Samuel Tseganu, Samuel Addae, all range supervisors, and Yaw Okyere, a forest guard.

The Osei-Gyamfi Commission found eight companies also culpable in the multi-billion cedi scam and promised to surcharge the companies for their involvement.

The report named the companies as Ben 'O' Investment, Tachiman Sawmills Limited (TSL), Kwame Konadu Timbers (KKT) and OAEK Limited, West Tropic & Trading Company, Western Veneer & Lumber Company (WVLC), Abora Woods Limited and Pas Timbers.

According to the findings, Philip Owusu Amoah connived with Ben 'O' Investment to illegally fell trees valued at ¢588,574,578, after which he removed 16 pages from the Tree Information Form (TIF) booklet as part of a cover-up.

In one of the most serious scams, Jojo Strokes supervised the illegal felling and evacuation of 96 out of the 182 trees felled, and issued TIF without authorization, causing a loss of ¢2.7 billion to the state.

Another range supervisor, Emmanuel Adams got himself entangled in a deal that cost the state a whopping ¢2.692 billion after teaming up with OAEK to illegally fell 187 timber trees in the reserve.

In a similar fashion, Samuel Tseganu monitored the evacuation of several trees, and in the process, made away with close to ¢2.8 billion.

Annor Effah, the report said, deliberately re-scheduled the beat of one Atta Frimpong, a forest guard, and with the connivance of KKT, fell 42 timber trees, making the commission lose ¢997, 174,737.

On Yaw Okere, he ignored laid down procedures and worked illegally with other friends and companies in defrauding the state.

At Cape Coast, Samuel Addae was also found culpable for issuing TIFs and Log Management and Conveyance Certificates covering 90 trees valued at several millions of cedis.

Apart from the action taken against the culprits for their direct participation, the Acting Chief Executive has accordingly approved the recommendations of the divisional management for the dismissal of the District Manager of Cape Coast, Mr. John Assabil, and Akyere Marfo, Customer Service Officer.

The committee was on December 30, 2005, established to inquire into circumstances leading to some illegal activities in the two districts, investigate the individuals involved and establish the involvement or otherwise of other personnel.

The final report, which was submitted on May 16, 2006, however, exonerated seven other staff, who had been placed on interdiction and subsequently had them re-installed.