Jul 06, 2016 News
The Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) is keeping a close eye on all logging companies—not only the controversial ones. Currently, the Commission remains engaged with Vaitarna, and the company seems to be cooperative. This is according to Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman.
During a recent interview with Kaieteur News, Trotman said that he has full confidence in the GFC’s Board of Directors. He said that the Board is currently working hard to regularize things at GFC.
Further, the Minister indicated that the Board is talking to some companies whose operations fall under GFC. Included in these entities is the logging company, Vaitarna.
Trotman told Kaieteur News, “My last report was that Vaitarna was being very cooperative. There are discussions ongoing between Vaitarna and the Board and these are said to be going reasonably well.
The Minister said that the discussions cover a wide range of concerns and issues raised, “including about the size of their concession and the possibility of them surrendering some lands.”
Vaitarna currently has access to 737,835 hectares of State forest. It has the second largest access to State Forest. Only Barama has more access to State Forest.
The report of an audit conducted into the operations of GFC showed several cases of malpractice in relation to Vaitarna.
Forensic Auditor Anand Goolsarran reported on issues ranging from illegal extension of State Forest Exploratory Permit (SFEP) to it acquiring a company without the permission of GFC.
Goolsarran reported that Simon and Shock International Logging Inc. was granted a SFEP (03/2007) in December 2007 covering 391,874 hectares. In 2010, Vaitarna Holdings PVT Ltd. acquired all the shares in the company and paid the outstanding debt to the Commission of US$254,000.
However, the auditor found that “there was no evidence of the specific approval of the Commission in relation to the change of ownership of the company. Notwithstanding this, the Commission granted Simon and Shock two extensions for exploratory operations to May 2012. The SFEP was converted into a TSA (01/2014) in March 2014.”
Goolsarran pointed out that Simon and Shock would have had the benefit of an exploratory permit covering a period of over six years, whereas the Forests Act provides for the validity period for a SFEP to be for a maximum of three years.
Goolsarran also reported that in July 2010, Vaitarna Holdings acquired the TSA held by Caribbean Resources Ltd. (CRL), a subsidiary of Colonial Life Insurance Co.
The concession, with an area size of 345,961 hectares, had expired, and the Government decided against its renewal because of the inability of CRL to make beneficial use of the concession.
The auditor said that a number of other entities had expressed an interest in the reallocation of the concession. However, “in view of the need for the Government to urgently obtain funds of at least G$500 million to address CLICO’s liabilities to Guyanese stakeholders, and the willingness of Vaitarna Holdings to offer G$600 million as consideration for the grant of the concession, the Board and the Government agreed to reallocate the concession to this company. The company therefore has access to 737,835 hectares of State forest.”
Goolsarran also reported that Vaitarna Holdings was granted fiscal concessions on a variety machinery and equipment with a Cost Insurance Freight (CIF) value of $1.142 billion, equivalent to US$5.712 million, during the period 2011 to 2014.
This was said to be based on an investment agreement it had entered into with the Government of Guyana.
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