Forestry officers have been accused of taking bribes from loggers and shedding their responsibility to combat illegal lumbering.
According to the Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), a study had revealed that bribery of the officers had become pervasive, thereby hampering the country’s fight against deforestation.
According to the research, institutional arrangements set up by the forestry Commission, of the Ghana Police Service and the military to enforce the ban on illegal chainsaw lumbering had proved ineffective due to the conduct of patrol teams and other Forestry officers.
It, therefore, urged government institutions with supervisory roles to issue appropriate sanctions to law enforcement personnel found culpable of such corrupt practices to serve as deterrent to others.
Titled, “a stakeholder perspective on corruption risks in Ghana’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+)”, the study was conducted this year to document stakeholder perception on the likelihood of specific corrupt practices occurring in the forestry sector and conditions that influence Ghana REDD+ implementation process.
Using data collection methods such as questionnaire survey, focus group discussions and key informant interview, the study solicited the views of forestry stakeholders in Accra and Kumasi, with focus at Asunafo North Municipality in the Brong-Ahafo Region, Atwima-Nwabiagya District in Ashanti Region, and West Gonja District in the Northern Region.
In all, five communities Sor Number 2, Damango, Larabanga, Achibunyo, and Kananto-were engaged in West Gonja, while respondents in Akrodie, Asumura, Goaso and Pomaakrom in the Asunafo District, made inputs into the study with Mpasatia and Kwanfinfin communities sharing similar views in the Atwima- Nwabiagya District.
A Lecturer at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Dr. Winston Asante, in a presentation at the launch of the research in Accra yesterday, said the pervasiveness of corruption in the forestry sector was found to be highly associated with law enforcement, followed by monitoring of forestry activities and timbering harvesting operations.
According to him, forest law enforcement, timber harvesting operations and monitoring of forest activities were critical areas where corruption had been widespread in the forest sector.
He, however, indicated that the least pervasive activity in the sector was securing community consent for the forestry operations.
“The most outstanding issue in the study is that fact the the political economy in the sector was a major source of practice. This issue is pivoted around the influence of politicians in decision making, law enforcement,” he said.
Dr. Asante, however, recommended the strengthening of law enforcement and other policies designed to curb illegal logging and chainsaw milling and trade, adding “tackling corruption and illegalities in the sector requires holistic approach”.
He called for increase capacity building for state accountability institutions to identify and understand corruption in REDD+ implementation process.
The Executive Director of GII, Mrs. Linda Ofori-Kwafo said her outfit would soon launch another report that would name and shame any politician that engaged in abuse of incumbency, electoral corruption and vote buying.
She said political parties turn to be generous during elections and induce voters with money and gifts, stressing citizens are now demanding from politicians during election period because they know that during this period certain developmental project would be done for them.
Mrs. Ofori-Kwafo expressed concern about the situation, explaining that such Practice made democracy expensive with politicians amassing wealth for themselves after being elected into office.
By Charles Amankwa and Benedicta Ampadu Okyere