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Business News of Thursday, 31 July 2003

Source: GNA

Process to reallocate cancelled Timber Utilization Certificates

Accra, July 31, GNA - The Ministry of Lands and Forestry has initiated a process to re-allocate the cancelled and expired Timber Utilization Certificates (TUCs).

Speaking to Journalists in Accra at the weekly press briefing on the issue of cancellation of TUCs, Mrs Theresa Tagoe, Deputy Minister of Lands and Forestry, said the Ministry was implementing a policy of competitive bidding for the granting of timber harvesting rights as provided for by the Timber Resources Management (Amendment) Act, 2002 (Act 617) and the Timber Resources Management Regulations 2003 (LI 1721 recently passed by Parliament).

She said by the enactment of these legislations, all expired TUCs would be allocated on the basis of competitive bidding using price, in terms of forest entry fees, as the determining factor. "This is to ensure transparent and efficient allocation of the timber resources, for optimisation of benefits from forestry resources, particularly timber to alleviate poverty and facilitate socio-economic development of the resource owning communities in particular and the country in general."

She said as a matter of urgency, the Ministry has directed the Forestry Commission to start the first bidding for TUC's for September 30th, 2003.

"On that basis, the Forestry Commission has developed an implementation schedule chart with milestones to enable them achieve set targets."

Mrs Tagoe said the TUC areas have been categorized into small, medium and large entities to avoid the situation where well-established and large-scale companies used every means to crowd out the medium and small-scale companies from the allocation of timber resources of the country.

"... There would be some rationalization in the competitive bidding allocation process without sacrificing transparency, fairness and equity."

She said government recognised the importance of the timber industry and was committed to ensuring that it remained firm and concrete. Mrs Tagoe said that the previous administration granted 42 TUCs covering 3,041 square kilometres of timber resources to 30 companies in 2000, but some anomalies were detected later in 2001.

"Seven out of the 30 companies had more than 103 square kilometres contrary to the law; 25 companies were given TUC terms of 40 years against the 30 years stipulated by law.

"In addition, one of the companies had aggregate TUC area of more than 621 square kilometres contrary to law."

Mrs Tagoe said that even though TUCs were ratified by Parliament, the Minister of Lands and Forestry never endorsed the performance bonds. "On the basis of the above findings among other things, the Ministry made recommendations to Cabinet to cancel the said TUC allocations." Mrs Tagoe noted that those who might lose their contracts now would not be thrown out of job completely. "It will be temporary and they would get jobs later when their TUCs are re-allocated. Besides, the current programme of afforestation will provide extra jobs for the youth in these areas.