Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Malfeasance hits forest plantation fund

A probe has been ordered into the stewardship of the former management board of the Forest Plantation Development Fund (FPDF), following reports of alleged misapplication of funds.The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Collins Dauda has tasked the new management board to investigate allegations that some beneficiaries of the fund diverted monies disbursed to them into purchasing taxi cabs and Urvan buses instead of investing it into developing forest plantations.Inaugurating the new management board chaired by Dormaahene Osagyefo Osadeeyo Agyeman Badu, the minister lamented that for eight years there seems to be “nothing to show for the GH¢22.6 million which accrued to the fund” , established in 2000 to support reforestation efforts in the country.With proceeds from timber export levy forming its seed capital, Hon. Collins Dauda expressed disappointment that management of the fund never submitted any annual report to parliament, nor did they submit any audited accounts to the august house.“Lack of effective supervision of the activities of the beneficiaries leading to situations where some of them used funds to procure taxis and Urvan buses instead of investing in plantation development is one of the concerns I have about the management of the fund in the past”, said the minister.According to him, the former board also had the tendency of investing resources accruing to the fund in money market instruments for interest instead of investing in actual plantations which is the core objective of the fund.The former board was under the chairmanship of Okyehene, Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panyin IIThe minister tasked the current board to devise transparent means of allocating the resources available to the fund, in order to overcome some of the afore-mentioned operational lapses.“This will require that guidelines must be developed by the board to satisfy the establishment of viable forest plantations in the country, the minister urged, adding that the board must also devise means of making the fund attractive to other donors with interest in the plantation development program of Ghana.The Forest Plantation Development Fund was established in 2000 under the Forest Plantation Development Fund Act (Act 583) with the objective of providing financial support for reforestation of degraded forest areas in the country. It is also to encourage and support increased establishment and management of forest plantations by private and public sector agencies.The fund is also to provide incentives, training and technical advice to persons involved in commercial plantation.Hon. Collins Dauda expressed concern over the rate of depletion of Ghana’s forest reserves. “Ghana’s total forest cover which stood at 8.2 million hectares at the turn of the 20th Century, has decreased to about 1.6 million hectares”, he noted, warning that if the current depletion rate of 65000 hectares per annum is not halted, and reversed, Ghana’s total forest cover would have been depleted within the next 23 years.He said his priority now is to reverse the natural depletion rates and promote and establish large scale forest plantations.The chairman of the new board Osagyefo Agyeman Badu promised the minister that his team would work assiduously to ensure that the purpose for the establishment of the board is realised.Other members of the board are Ahmed Bin Salih, Chief Director of Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources(Secretary); Alhaji Alhassan Attah, Chief Executive of the Forestry Commission; Peter Sangber-Dery, Fund Manager at Agric Development Bank; Kobina Amoah, Representative of Ministry of Finance; Naa Robert Logah; Nana Dwomoh Sarpong, from Friends of Rivers(an NGO); and Osei Kwame Boateng Poku.
Source:Financial Intelligence (Justice Lee Adoboe)

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