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30.10.2008 Business & Finance

Government asked to probe illegal allocation of plantations


Fifteen aggrieved Timber Companies on Thursday called for an independent investigation into the allocation of timber rights by the Forestry Commission (FC) to some foreign companies.

They also called on the government to revoke all illegal licenses and permits issued by the commission immediately and reshuffle the plantation staff of the FC.

The companies are In God's Service Co. Ltd, AFRAMCO Ltd, Carlnormal Ltd, House of KAY, UNCLEWAD Co. Ltd, Tiger Exports Ltd, Talento Ltd, Belltop Co. Ltd, Isberg Co. Ltd and Ghana Tropical.

The rest are Nkebright Agencies, B.M.S Ltd, Engineering & Technical, Jeewap Co. Ltd and Alacraty International.

Mr Bright Nkeyasen, spokesperson for the group, said in 2007 the FC organized a competitive bidding in which 24 plantations were advertised for pre-qualification.

“After the pre-qualification process, as we prepared for the actual bidding in Accra, surprisingly three big lots or plantations totalling 35,000 cubic metres were removed from the list by Forestry Commission, which then cited environmental and security concerns as reasons for the removal,” he said.

Mr Nkeyasen said two weeks after the competitive bidding, the alleged three plantations were allocated to a foreign company based in Singapore at a price of GH¢140 per cubic metre.

He alleged that although the company in question did not pass through the competitive bidding process as required by the law, they had the plantation 50 per cent less than the prices won at the bidding in 2007.

He said because the foreign companies had their concession cheaper than them, it had rendered theirs uncompetitive on the world market and they had no other alternative than to wait for the foreign companies to harvest and sell their products before they can proceed.

“Surprisingly, when we presented our bankers draft to FC, we were told the plantations have been withdrawn due to delay in payments.

“Within two weeks after this action by the FC, two of the plantations were again allocated to the same Singaporean Company without bidding,” he alleged.

Mr Nkeyasen said they took the Commission to the Fast Track High Court and got an injunction restraining them from allocating lots without competitive bidding, but the Minister intervened and prevailed upon them to withdraw the case for amicable settlement.

“The Minister of July 24, 2008 sent a letter to the Chief Executive Officer of Forestry Commission that the 15 companies should be allocated with 500 cubic metres each as compensation.

“As we speak here, only three companies had been allocated 200 cubic metres each,” he said, and called on the President and the legislators to come to their aid.

“We are also calling for the reallocation of our lots which we legitimately won in accordance with the laws of the country,” he added.