Business News of 2014-04-03

Weak law enforcement, roots of illegal logging

Alhaji Inusah Fuseini, Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, says weak law enforcement is the root cause of illegal logging in the country.
He said inadequate monitoring and feedback mechanisms, as well as poor participation of stakeholders in the policy making process, among others, are also some of the challenges affecting the process of fighting illegal logging.
Alhaji Fuseini made these remarks at the inauguration of a 11- member Timber Validation Committee in Accra, charged with the responsibility to ensure the functions of verification and validation as envisaged under the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) that Ghana signed with the European Union.
He said Ghana has signed the VPA to put in place systems that would help fight illegal logging and the associated trade in illegal timber, as well as improve the governance environment in the forestry sector.
Alhaji Fuseini explained that the design of the VPA offered policy and legislative reforms that were expected to address existing inadequacies in Ghana’s forest sector.
The Minister tasked the Committee to ensure that the functions of verification and validation as envisaged under the VPA are performed in a credible, transparent and independent manner.
In doing this, Alhaji Fuseini said the Timber Validation Committee would need to establish measures to ensure that the processes of verification and validation, as performed by the Timber Validation Department are not interfered with.
The TVC is, therefore, to discharge a watchdog role in safeguarding the principles of transparency, credibility and independence in the operation of Ghana’s Legality Assurance System (LAS).
Alhaji Fuseini encouraged the Committee to settle complaints made in respect of the TVD concerning process of verification and validation of applications for licenses regarding timber products harvested within the country.
The Committee should also resolve complaints regarding timber products imported into Ghana, and those destined for export from Ghana, as well as timber destined for distribution and sale on the domestic market.
Alhaji Fuseini reminded the Committee that it was vested with investigative powers to self-initiate inspection and investigation into administrative malfeasance or negligence as a preventive measure and also to guard against abuse or manipulation of the verification and validation process.
The Minister called on stakeholders and the citizenry to play their roles appropriately to ensure good governance, saying people must be encouraged to speak out against any shortcomings that may become evident from the operations of the LAS.
Mr. Justice Denni Adjei, Chairman of the Committee, said it would work diligently to achieve set goals.