MNR Response to article in Kaieteur News “GFC monitoring system has been severely compromised” dated 4th October, 2019 by M. Fraser.
- The letter written by M. Fraser is downright scandalous and devoid of the facts.
The missive by M. Fraser published in the October 4, 2019 edition of Kaieteur News captioned “GFC monitoring system has been severely compromised” is malicious and tantamount to mendacities. The first sentence of the article suggests that two prominent stakeholders voiced their concerns, but in reality, the authors are unknown to the forestry sector.
The name “John Williams” was deliberately used as an author of one of the articles to misrepresent a prominent forestry stakeholder “John Willems”.The articles contain several scandalous statements but lack any factual evidence to perpetuate an investigation. The author of these articles are encouraged to present the facts about corruption to the Board of Directors for further investigation.
The operations of all Divisions within the Commission, particularly the Forest Monitoring Division undergo several tiers of audits to ensure compliance with operational procedures prescribed in the Manual of Procedures. The forest officers stationed at strategic locations throughout the country conduct the first tier of monitoring to Forest Sector Operators (FSO). Internal records at the GFC and data publicly available on GFC website illustrates that monitoring intensity over the years have increased thus leading to improved compliance.
Once inspections by field officers are completed there are two internal tiers of audits and an external tier of audit conducted through a process called Independent Forest Monitoring (IFM). The first internal tier involves officers from the Legality Monitoring and Extension Unit (LMEU) cross referencing and validating the inspection reports and procedures conducted by field officers. The second tier entails the Internal Audit Unit (IAU) executing station audits, desk reviews of LMEU reports and focused field inspections to ensure the standards of the Commission are maintained and improved. This unit is also responsible for audits of forest produce being exported.
The external audit or Independent Forest Monitoring (IFM) assesses on a biennial basis the legal compliance system for Guyana’s forestry sector at the broader country level. Its main objective is to provide stakeholders with a third-party independent assessment of the adequacy and relevance of Guyana’s forest law enforcement systems, implementation of the forest law enforcement systems and how operators within the forestry sector are complying with the nationally agreed legality requirements based on the specified Criteria for Monitoring.
Independent Forest Monitoring (IFM) Audit started in 2011 and the most recent audit was conducted from 18th February to 8th March, 2019. The methodology used by the audit team for the Fourth IFM Audit was a combination of desktop review of documents and records, interviews with GFC staff, Forest Sector Operators (FSOs), independent stakeholders and field inspections of concession areas, sawmills, lumberyards and GFC field stations, to verify and cross reference evidence obtained from document reviews and interviews.
The IFM report is publicly available on the GFC website and based on document reviews and field inspections, the audit team concluded that overall, the compliance/monitoring system is working as it was intended; both GFC staff and FSOs are fully conversant with the compliance/monitoring systems, and the associated requirements; FSOs understood and accepted the need for the compliance/monitoring systems for demonstrating to their buyers the legal sources of their wood produce; stakeholders again confirmed that the compliance/monitoring regime was working well, and any illegal activities that may be occurring are low, and limited largely to the domestic market; and there are opportunities to improve further the compliance/monitoring regime.
The authors of these articles are again encouraged to provide evidence of wrong doings to the relevant authorities. The Ministry of Natural Resources and the Board of Directors and are confident that the internal and external audit procedures employed by the Guyana Forestry Commission is functional and would detect and implement remedial action to avoid the system from being compromised.