Thursday, June 16, 2011

Forestry fund under scrutiny

A highly place source from the ministry of forestry said last month cabinet decided to divert part of the funding under ministry of forest and research that is allocated for the downstream processing and forest development.

The funds will now go directly to the 50 members of parliament (MP).

The fear is that the diversion of the funds will affect the ministry’s work plans for 2011.

Under the ministry’s budget allocation a total of $8m has been budget for downstream processing and $6m for reforestation, research and development.

From the $6million about $4million has been diverted to the 50 MPs after a cabinets meeting last month.

These funds are said to be the internal budgets of the ministry of forestry and research for its internal work plans for this year.

This means each of the 50 MPs will benefit from nearly $12m with each MP receiving $240,000.

The $8m for the downstream processing was to meet trainings, workshops, administrative work, logistics, equipments (chainsaws, Lucas mill and tools) and backup services.

And the budgeted $6m funding was supposed to be used to help new and existing tree growers to maintain their forests, with tools, technical advice and funds.

Now that these funds are under the custodians of the 50 MPs, it raises more questions as to, how they are going to use the money and whether the money will be used for its intended purpose.

The source said the diversion of funds will malfunction the ministry’s work plans for this year because of the diversion of funds.

“What will happen to the implementation of all field work of the ministry?” the source asked.

The source questioned how the MPs are going to use or distribute funds for the downstream processing because such funds is to purchase equipments like chainsaws, mucas mill and tools.

“And these equipments will only be given to applicants who meet the ministry’s criteria”.

The source also questioned how the money will be used by constituencies like the Malaita Outer Islands, Aoke Langalanga, East, Central and West Honiara. constituencies who have no forest of any kind to cut.

“And if lucas mills, chainsaws are bought by MPs for their constituencies, how are they going to do their trainings, backup services, technical advices, monitoring and decision making,” the source questioned.

The source also questioned how the disbursement of funds to farmers going to be done and how they will identify them if they are true tree growers.

“Because this fund are meant for farmers and only the ministry knows who the farmers are and how they can help them in terms of tools, technical advice and funds to assist them.

“The biggest fear of the ministry now is whether these funds under the control of the MPs going to end up in the hands of rightful farmers”, the source said.

While the ministry is promoting reforestation due to the drastic rate of unsustainable forest harvesting in the country funding will now be a problem.

“If these funds were not used for its intended purpose and ended up in wrong hands it will discourage and badly affects tree farmers throughout the country as well as the country as a whole.”

Another issue is if the government wants outside donors to fund its intended budgets, but then realizes that cabinet has the attitude to divert funds for other purposes, donors will be very disappointed and they will no longer trust or show interest to pour anymore funding next time.

Permanent Secretary ministry of forest Francis Orodani when contacted yesterday to comment on this issue said, “it’s a political decision from the cabinet and not the implementers decision therefore I will not comment or say anything to defend the ministry on this issue.“

Forestry minster, Bradley Tovosia when contacted was not in a position to comment saying he was busy to make any comments.

Secretary to cabinet when contacted yesterday said he will not comment on this issue.
By Daniel Namosuaia

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