Reports on the Verification Process of Eligibility of Commercial Operators
Once bidders have lodged their application for a forest title, an inter-ministerial committee including an Independent Observer (IO) examines and verifies their eligibility. However, the IO has very little power in the dissemination of the results and the control of the process. For example, the IO does not have sufficient powers to influence or halt the allocation process in the event of fraud. At the end of the process, it draws up a report with recommendations on the allocation of titles, which it directly presents to the Ministry of Forests and Wildlife (MINFOF). This report is not published. On 23 May 2012 the forestry administration launched the process of recruitment of a new Independent Observer. This process is rather perplexing in terms of its transparency: there is a lack of information on the reasons why the previous observer (Cabinet Bloch-Kolle), which had fulfilled the function since 2003, was side-lined. Disagreements between Bloch-Kolle and senior officials of the MINFOF on the way in which the allocation process was being carried out seem to be the reason for the termination of its contract. The reports of the former observer were not to the satisfaction of the MINFOF and not made public, which called into question the raison d’être of the observer; its removal evidences the desire for hegemonic control by higher levels in the MINFOF on the processes of allocation of logging permits. The independent verification of the eligibility of logging permit applicants is still limited to forest concessions and sales of standing timber, whereas smaller titles are still excluded from the process.