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24.05.2005 General News

Bizarre loss of ¢70bn at Forestry Commission

By Chronicle

... Timbermen call for Boakye-Dapaah's head Takoradi, May 24, (Chronicle) -- The Ghana Timber Association (GTA) has called on the Auditor General (A-G) and the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) to probe the Forestry Commission (FC) and its chief executive, Mr. Boakye Dapaah, following his revelation that 50% of timber trees felled in the country are not billed, leading thus to a loss of ¢70 billion in revenue to the state.

The GTA has also called on the sector minister, Prof. Dominic Fobih, to ask Mr. Boakye Dapaah to proceed on leave as it happened to Mr. Kofi Asante of the energy commission to enable proper and impartial investigations to be conducted into the operations of the Forestry Commission.

In a statement issued in Takoradi and signed by its national president, Mr. J. A. Armah, the GTA noted that there are strict rules and regulations governing the felling and carting of timber logs from the bush to the timber companies for processing.

The association noted that if upon all the laws and regulations, 50% of the trees felled are not billed, then there was something wrong somewhere, which must be investigated. According to Mr. Armah, the Forestry Service Department issued Tree Information Forms (TIF) for every tree felled, Log Information Form (LIF) for every log removed and conveyance certificate for every truck of logs that leaves the timber operational area.

The association noted that these three documents contained all the information necessary for the stampage bills.

“In addition, Log Management Certificates are issued by the TIDD before the logs are delivered to a buyer or to the lodgers' own mill as a check on the validity of the conveyance certificate. The FDS and not the lodger also prepare the bills so how can felled and hauled trees escape billing,” the GTA asked.

Mr. Armah also suggested in his statement that Mr. Boakye Dapaah who gave the revelation about the perceived corruption in the commission headed by him, be made to provide evidence that could help investigators unravel how the ¢70 billion did not come into the government chest.

If annually the nation loses 70 billion cedis from timber species felled, then we need to find out the beneficiaries of this illegal money and those who are aiding and abetting such crimes, Armah wrote in his statement.

According to Mr. Armah, Boakye Dapaah had confessed that he was incapable of running the affairs of the forestry sector and therefore called on him to honorably throw in the towel and stop barking before he was removed from office.

Armah's statement noted also that in calling for a probe into the activities of the FC, his association was relying on the strength of the Financial Administration Act, 2003, Act 654 and the Financial Administration Regulation 2004 (L. I. 1802) which were enacted to check corruption in institutions like the FC among others.

The GTA warned that if the probe was not set up to look into the revelation and culprits punished, wrong signals would be sent to investors that investing in Ghana, which could also affect our forestry products outside the country.

Meanwhile, The Ghana Timber Millers Organization (GTMO), the grouping of all timber processing companies in the country has also added its voice to that of the GTA, calling for a probe into how the state lost such huge sums of money as the chief executive officer of the FC himself had revealed.

In a letter signed by the secretary to the organization, Mr. Aqcuah Moses and copied to the sector minister, Prof. Dominic Fobih, the GTMO noted that it was alarmed by the extent of the alleged malpractice that led to the loss of such huge sums of money and that it would feel uncomfortable until all those found wanting in the case were sanctioned accordingly.

“We do appreciate the fact that there are several operational problems that may delay the monthly submission of the felling records by the logging department of the GTMO member companies. However, we find it very difficult to accept that so many months after completion of logging in a specified unit area, a responsible organization like the FC would not submit invoices to cover all trees felled,” the GTMO wrote in their letter to the minister, which was also copied to the FC.

The GTMO called also for the review of the FC budget.

According to Mr. Aqcuah, the over bloated nature of the FC budget was encouraging the commission to make certain wild statements in their desperation to look for avenue to balance their budget.

“We are by this write up appealing to your office to request the chief executive officer of the FC, Mr. Boakye-Dapaah to substantiate the allegation and all the parties found wanting sanctioned accordingly.

“We will provide all the necessary support for such an investigation to be conducted,” concludes the GTMO letter to the minister.

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