All contracts for the use of natural resources including timber are supposed to be subject to parliamentary ratification according to law (Art. 268(1) of 1992 Constitution). Such ratification will place the contract in public domain. However, no timber contracts have been ratified in several years. Permits are theoretically public documents, and there are no publicised instances of community or civil society groups being refused access to them, but it is difficult to judge their accessibility.
Permits for timber resources and some non-timber forest products (NTFPs) are clearly indicated but for other NTFPs and environmental services there is no clarity on the permit regime. There are specified limits of what permits for timber resources Forestry Commission (FC) officials can grant. However, with other products, FC officials have a lot of discretionary power. In some instances the institutional responsibility for allocation of non-timber products is blurred.
The lack of clarity on permit regimes played out recently in the approval by Parliament for a company to harvest trees under the Volta Lake, which were left standing after the river gorge was flooded in 1966 to create the man-made reservoir. There was a long delay from 2006 when Parliament ratified the agreement until November 2010 when the activities were finally approved, because the institutional oversight for the project was not clear, with the Ministries of Transport, Volta River Authority, Ministry of Energy, the EPA and Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources all involved at one time or the other.
In 2011, the FC again issued administrative “salvage permits” for timber resources without going through a transparent auction and verification process, despite condemnation by civil society organizations (CSOs) of this practice when they were issued in 2010. A memo was sent to the Ministry of Lands and Forestry, condemning the practice and demanding an explanation. The correspondence was copied to the Select Committee on Lands and Natural Resources. The Select Committee rejected the response of the ministry and requested them to re-draft it. The Ministry and the FC are now very careful, knowing very well that they are being watched by other stakeholders especially CSOs.
As stated in the 2010 report, Timber Utilisation Permits (TUPs) are being granted inappropriately for commercial operations instead of community activities. In a memo sent to the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, Forest Watch Ghana (FWG) observed that there are some difficulties about whether under Section 3 of the Timber Resources Management Act 1997 (Act 547) as amended, it is possible for the state to issue a Timber Utilisation Contract (TUC) in respect of any land in Ghana. It continued however that there is no doubt that Act 547 itself does not create any permit other than a TUC. The Forest Watch Ghana coalition therefore stated that given the clear language of Act 547 and the Legislative Instrument 1649, it cannot create new rights or permits or amplify the rights provided for in the parent Act. The coalition therefore requested the Honourable Minister to seek advice from the Attorney General’s department on this issue to prevent further unlawful conduct by the FC.
|Title||Database on Timber Rights|