Government of Tanzania tackles forestry corruption
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 29 July 2007 -- An African Parliamentarians' Network Against Corruption (APNAC) meeting today will discuss corruption in Tanzania's forestry sector. It will be attended by every Member of Parliament in the Tanzanian Government.
The meeting follows a week of intense debate in the Tanzanian Parliament over the ongoing rampant illegal logging that continues to plague the country's forestry sector.
The APNAC meeting was called to launch officially and discuss the findings of a TRAFFIC report, Forestry, governance and national development: Lessons learned from a logging boom in southern Tanzania.
The report was authorized by the Tanzanian Government to investigate the forestry industry, and found that millions of dollars worth of timber revenue was being lost each year in Tanzania through poor governance and rampant corruption, resulting in illegal logging and exports of forest products.
“The annual loss of timber revenue in Tanzania is equivalent to the cost of building more than 10,000 secondary school classrooms or providing a quarter of Tanzanians with mosquito nets,” said TRAFFIC's Simon Milledge, lead author of the report.
Earlier this year, the Government of Tanzania instigated a high-level investigation into corruption within the forestry sector after receiving copies of the TRAFFIC report.“The lost revenue...could provide a quarter of Tanzanians with mosquito nets” Simon Milledge, TRAFFIC
Professor Jumanne Maghembe, Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, this week announced several measures to address key issues raised by the report. They include an increase in timber prices by at least 30% to match global wood prices better, greater involvement of the Tanzania Revenue Authority to curb smuggling, maintenance of the ban on indigenous roundwood exports, and steps to deal with forestry corruption.
Milledge commented: “It's gratifying to see the Tanzanian Government take the report's findings seriously, and to take action to stamp out corruption in the forestry sector. We hope it marks a turning point in Tanzania's forest fortunes.”Annually, timber royalty losses amounted to US$58 million during 2004 and 2005.
Trade losses are also significant: China imported ten times more timber from Tanzania than is documented by Tanzania's export records, implying a 90% loss of revenue from this source. Up to 96% of potential timber royalties were lost by central and district governments due to undercollection -- entire District Council budgets could have been increased several times over.
Milledge points out that Tanzania is in the situation where the forestry sector is highly dependent upon donor funding, despite having the potential to be self-sufficient from timber revenues.
“Proper enforcement in the forestry sector will bring benefits for the whole nation”
Uncontrolled timber harvesting in southern Tanzania grew rapidly from 2003, largely because of increasing overseas demand, especially from China. Driven by greed and profit, some operators broke laws, paid minimal wages and minimal prices for harvested logs (just 1% of their export value. Meanwhile, Tanzanian hardwoods commanded high prices internationally, compared to timber from West and Central Africa. The unsustainable harvesting has led to environmental degradation and the loss of commercially viable hardwoods in many areas.
More than half of the 28 logging companies studied had close links to senior forest or government officials. In some rural areas, the involvement of village leaders in the timber trade has led to an unfair distribution of profits, and at higher levels, there are many examples of self-dealing, nepotism and cronyism.
"The Tanzanian Government has tried to regulate the timber trade, through harvest and export bans, the establishment of forest surveillance units, and a review of licensing and harvesting procedures, but serious governance shortfalls have undermined these commendable measures," said Milledge.
"Whilst the situation has improved somewhat since 2006, the government still needs to do much more to tighten its regulation of the industry and stamp out the corruption within it."
"It's not a question of stopping the logging and exportation of forest products, but of proper regulation of the timber industry and taking advantage of existing bilateral trade opportunities with countries such as China.
"Proper enforcement in the forestry sector will bring benefits for the whole nation."
Forestry, governance and national development: Lessons learned from a logging boom in southern Tanzania was authorized by the Tanzanian Government and funded by the Norwegian embassy in Tanzania. It was written jointly by TRAFFIC, the Government of Tanzania, and the Tanzanian Development Partners Group.
The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, Rufford Maurice Laing Foundation and WWF (East African Coastal Forests Ecoregion and Miombo Ecoregion Programmes) are acknowledged for their support to previous work on timber trade in the same study area, which provided the foundation for some findings in the present report.