Timber companies operating in Ghana are reported to have robbed the State to the tune of $3.16 billion through various illegal activities.
This was made known by officials of Civic Response, a natural resource and environment governance policy Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) on Wednesday in Accra.
Programme Officer of Civic Response, Obed Owusu-Addai said highly corrupt government officials had encouraged many timber companies to evade taxes and royalties to the detriment of the State and host communities.
Citing figures from government Ministries, Departments and Agencies, as well as research papers, Mr Owusu-Addai indicated that the timber rights fee which was supposed to be paid by timber contractors had not been paid over the past 10 years, causing the State to lose about $200 million annually.
He also said the State lost about $200 million per annum due to illegal chainsaw operations from 2009 to date.
According to him, Ghana lost about $16 million owing to the lack of revision of stumpage fee from 2003 to date.
He said that the State lost the said amount due to the ineffectiveness of the existing legislation and wanton corruption by officials of government, particularly at the Forestry Commission and the Ministry of Lands and Mineral Resources.
Some defaulting companies, he mentioned, include Carpo Limited, which reportedly owes the State about $314,178; J.D. Kwarteng, $288,000; African Hardwood Timbers, $390,000; Tepa Sawmills Co, $426,000 and Anapim Company Limited, $63,000.
The rest are Chiraa Forest Mills, $369,600, Chiridi Construction Limited, $356,400 and Oti Yeboah Complex, $1,014, 178.
According to him, management of the Ghana Forestry Commission confided in Civic Response that the companies refused to pay the annual Timber Right Fee based on the law.
He added that most of the illegal timber from Ghana were exported to Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal mostly by Indian and Lebanese companies.
Mr Owusu-Addai accused the companies of bribing some government officials to permit them to carry out their illegal activities.
He said that Ghana was losing its forest cover by 2.2 percent, with about 135, 000 hectares a year.
Clement Kojo Akpame, a lecturer at the Faculty of Law at the Ghana Institute for Public Administration (GIMPA), in a presentation themed: ‘Saving Ghana’s Forest: Time for a unified law,’ said the non-payment of the stumpage fee is as a result of the lack of clarity on the existing legislation.”
He stressed the need to codify all the legislations on the forest into one book.
“As a result of the lack of a unified forest and wildlife legislation in the country, it has become difficult to effectively enforce any of the already existing 27 laws which are scattered all over the place.”
Mr. Akpame urged journalists to play their watchdog role by holding government accountable to prevent the loss of the country’s forest cover and wildlife.
Source: Daily Guide