By Kiana Wilburg
A special report by a UK-based firm has revealed that there were over 1900 breaches of Guyana’s forestry laws for 2015, 2016 and 2017.
The specific objective of the Independent Forest Monitoring (IFM) audit report prepared by Soil Association Certification Limited was to provide stakeholders with a professional and independent evaluation of Guyana’s forestry law enforcement systems, how they are being implemented, and legal compliance by stakeholders evaluated against the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC)’s Criteria for Monitoring.
The report notes that there were 23 different types of breaches of the forestry laws and regulations from 2015 to 2017. These include: Breach of export procedures, failure to prove origin, false declaration, felling in buffer zone, felling outside one’s concession area, harvesting in an unapproved block, harvesting of protected species, improper record-keeping, improper tagging, incomplete removal document, late submission of removal permit, no tagging, operating without a licence, sale of seizures and undeclared produce.
It was noted that in 2015, these and other breaches occurred 659 times, in 2016-617 times and in 2017, 637 times.
Further to this, auditors noted that the main area of weakness was in relation to receiving and reconciling of some compliance information and data at Head Office.
They said that since a similar audit was done in 2014, GFC has made significant progress in this area, through scanning and storing information and data in pdf, which is available through a shared file, with access regulated through passwords. They noted, however, that a significant percentage of data and information is still managed through a paper-based system (for example Removal Permits, Production Registers, Private Property Declarations).
They said that this results in multiple handling at the Head Office, which sometimes leads to inconsistencies in data and information reported by Forest Sector Operators (FSOs) and the records kept by the GFC.
The Audit Team said it observed such inconsistencies in data and information reconciliation in relation to the following: tags issued, tags used and tags returned; and figures on Annual Allowable Cut (AAC) calculated and recorded in some concession agreements, and some post-harvest reports prepared by the Forest Monitoring Division.
The team said that when these inconsistencies were identified, the GFC was able to go through historical records and achieve reconciliation of the data and information.
They said, “However, given the AAC calculations are a critical component of the Wood Tracking System (permits and tags for produce issued to FSOs are based on the calculated AAC), it is important to ensure such data and information inconsistencies do not arise in the first place.”
The team stressed that a fully functioning electronic (online) system for managing data and information would be preferable, because it would minimize human error through multiple handling.
The Audit Team noted however that currently, Guyana does not have the required ICT infrastructure throughout the country, to facilitate real-time management of data and information. (See link for full report at: http://www.forestry.gov.gy/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Guyana-Independent-Forest-Monitoring-Report-2018.pdf)
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