In an effort to continue its diatribe of the forestry sector and its prejudicial attack on foreign investment, some of the newspapers having exhausted its current articles have resorted to old misinformation in its coverage on 23 and 24 August, 2014. Perspectives from two very partial individual who clearly have deep seated personal grievances with almost all facets of Government policy, released eight months ago by the local media, was used as the information source in its weekend publications.
The GFC will not be intimidated by the unjust and unwarranted campaign to mislead the public that the forest sector on the management and regulation of the forest sector. The Commission stands firmly on the foundation of facts, and robust process which would have been executed for every aspect of its operation.
Christopher Ram, Janette Bulkan Palmer, and John Palmer released in January 2014, their personal views on the GFC Annual Reports submitted to Parliament. Their assessments of the GFC’s Reports are not only misrepresenting the fact but in some cases totally incorrect in the conclusions made. Their assessments of the Annual Reports are baseless and erroneous as clearly demonstrated below:
Audited Accounts of GFC
Mr. Ram alluded to incomplete reporting by the GFC but failed to point to any evidence or specifics to substantiate this claim. The facts would show that GFC has every year of the audited accounts submitted to parliament, has received an unqualified (clean) audit opinion.
This mean that the financial management and reporting of the GFC have fulfilled required standard set both internationally and locally for these areas. In other words, unqualified audit opinion is one of the key element of good financial reporting and this point needs to be the first notable point in any analysis of the GFC’s financial accounting and reporting practice for the years reviewed.
This assessment was done by the competent legal authority to pronounce on this, that is, the Auditor General’s Office. This is not Mr. Ram’s jurisdiction and he should certainly not attempt to usurp the authority and function of that designated legal authority.
GFC’s Annual Reports
Claims were made by Ram and Bulkanthat the structure of the GFC’s Annual Reports is ad hoc and do not establish clear reporting to the National Forest Plan and Policy. What is clear from this claim is that both Ram and Bulkan have no idea what the National Forest Plan or Policy look like or are selective in their assessment of the Annual Reports.
A quick look at the National Forest Plan and Policy would reveal that the exact programmatic areas of the Plan and Policy are those that have been reported on in the Annual Reports. The high quality of the GFC’s reports and reporting systems as a whole, on number occasion have been found to be clear, comprehensive, transparent.
The recent Norway Evaluation concludes that “activities, outputs produced, and outcomes achieved are clear and readily accessible”. This is an international independent assessment by experts and proves that Bulkan and Ram are wrong, and partisan in their assessment.
Capacity Building with the GFC and Forests Sector
The newspaper extended its misinformation when quoting Ram and Bulkan’s point regarding the effective building of the GFC’s capability to implement the GFC’s mandate and have long term impacts on forest policy implementation. Every Annual Report contains information on the training sessions completed and also made reference to the persons trained.
The GFC has been noted both regionally and internationally as a Commission of high repute and one that has embraced new programmes of work on forestry and has demonstrated a high level of dynamism and professional capability.
This has been endorsed by recent independent audits conducted by Independent Forest Monitoring and MRVS Independent Verification which both found following three successive years of audits, that the GFC has not only built a tremendous level of capacity to undertake the Commission core mandate, but has also embraced new areas of work in a highly capable and competent manner. This is testimony that there is indeed lasting impact of capacity built through various projects implemented by the GFC. Ram and Bulkan are yet again proven wrong.
Financial Statements and Mandate of the GFC
Mr. Ram indicated that there are more questions than answers in the financial statements submitted by GFC to Parliament in addition the accountant Ram highlighted that there are “discrepancies” in the income and expenses. His analysis however, could not identify these “discrepancies” to which he refers. Rather, he spoke of fluctuations in income and expenses. Fluctuations in income and expenses are not discrepancies but in a practical operational environment a normal part of the financial reporting landscape.
The GFC mandates include managing in excess of 12million ha of State Forests. There are over 500 concessions and over 200 processing and value added operators. In addition the GFC along with other public agencies are responsible for the broader aspect of work on climate change in Guyana. Surely the nature of business, whether public or private, there are expected to be expansions and contractions. Thus, income and expenses will fluctuate from year to year, and it will be more suspicious if the figure remains the same throughout years.
Mr. Ram is also very selective when reviewing the GFC Act. The GFC Act has wide ranging financial provisions that allude to transfers, investments, borrowing, loans etc. The GFC activities are governed by the GFC Act and the Forests Act. The GFC has always operated within the law and thus the financial report presented is in compliance with the law.
It is clear from the above that what we have seen reported in by Ram and Bulkan masquerading as assessment of GFC’s Annual Reports was simply partial reporting by partial persons, who have a narrow political agenda and are not concerned about reporting on facts.