All contracts for the use of natural resources including timber are supposed to be ratified by Parliament according to Article 268(1) of the Constitution, which would place them in the public domain. In principle, this is an important safeguard to strengthen the legitimacy of the allocation process over ‘public goods’ such as forests; however, no timber contracts have been ratified in several years even though timber rights have been allocated during this period.
The legal documents for timber utilisation contracts, timber utilisation permits (TUPs) and other permits are theoretically public documents. There are examples where such documents have been successfully obtained by civil society groups and communities following a request to a Forest Services Division office; however it is difficult to judge their wider accessibility. In some areas, NGOs have played a key role in supporting communities to find out what timber rights have been granted in their forests. Contract and permit documents are not published online and it is difficult to gather comprehensive data on all existing timber rights. For example, a study found that the authorities apparently have no such central database, and it had to construct one from secondary data and other material to show that some 3.2 million hectares of forests were under various forms of timber rights in the reference year 2005 (1). This revealed that TUPs had been allocated to timber companies on fairly large tracts of forests, even though the regulations indicate that such permits are for non-commercial harvesting of specified numbers of trees.
In 2010 and 2011, exposés by civil society revealed that the Forestry Commission (FC) had issued over 100 administrative salvage felling permits at its discretion without following any transparent auction and verification procedures. Such permits are intended for small areas undergoing development (e.g. road construction) but had seemingly been allocated to companies for felling larger areas. Condemnation by civil society organisations led to a series of meetings with forest authorities and the Parliamentary Select Committee on Lands and Natural Resources. As a result, the Forestry Commission (FC) implicitly accepted that this method of permit allocation was incompatible with the legality definition in the VPA and the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources took steps to resolve concerns.
(1) Hansen, C.P. and Lund, J.F. (2011) "The Political Economy of Timber Taxation: The Case of Ghana", Forest Policy and Economics, 13 (2011) pp.630-641
|Title||a. The Constitution of the Republic of Ghana
b. Timber Utilisation Contracts and Permits
b. Available on request from the Forestry Commission