Out of the sh17.2b they had expected to raise for the financial year 2017/18, they only raised sh8.188b
The National Forestry Authority (NFA) bosses on Wednesday came under fire when they failed to explain why they underperformed yet they had received 90% of their budgetary allocation.
Appearing before the parliamentary committee on Natural resources, the authority’s top executives were grilled over their failure to raise revenue from the forest products.
In their presentation, they indicated that out of the sh17.2b they had expected to raise for the financial year 2017/18, they only raised sh8.188b. From this, they had projected to raise sh3.935b from the sale of forest products such as timber and poles but only managed to raise sh660m.
From the sale of seeds and seedlings, they managed to raise sh1b from the projected sh4.8b. These figures raised a barrage of questions from the legislators who wondered whether government should continue funding the authority or not.
“Can you substantiate why you managed to only raise 17% on sale of forest products. I am not contented, explain the underperformance otherwise we will render the sector unviable,” said Jova Kamateka, the Mitooma district woman MP.
She wondered why with the growing population and growing need for timber and poles, NFA failed to raise the sh3.9b they had planned.
In response, Tom Obong Okello, the NFA Executive Director, explained that they tried selling the poles but the people who bided had no money to pay for them.
“The first bidder after successfully being selected said he had no money and was only willing to pay in installments, to which we refused. When we went to the second best bidder, he had already lost interest,” he responded.
He stated that for the seedlings the inputs were not readily available at the time they were needed.
Okello said that they are also bogged down with court cases especially court injunctions acquired by forest encroachers to deter them from doing their work.
He said though the orders stop them from acting, the encroachers continue with their illegal activities, undeterred.
The NFA director of policy and planning, Paul Buyerah Musamali told the legislators that managing forests is an expensive venture which requires a lot of resources yet what they have is less.
“The money isn’t enough to protect forests. Most of the donors have withdrawn because of the many court cases we have. Forest management has become really expensive,” he said.
The authority was also pinned on underperformance when it revealed that out of the planned 7,256hectares of plantation for weeding, they only managed to weed 945 hectares. They established 186 fire breaks instead of the 602 and also managed to thin and prune 534 hectares out of the planned 2,906 hectares.
“These results are disappointing. What are you really doing there? This is what forest maintenance is all about and you have failed to do it,” Kiwanuka Keefa, the committee chairperson said.
The legislators argued that forests products are highly sought after and if sold they could have raised revenue for the authority.
The authority officials also came under fire when they failed to account for sh5.2b. In their presentation they stated that they received a total income of sh20.5b but only spent sh15.29b.
The remaining sh5b was not accounted for in their presentation prompting the legislators to task them to come up with a breakdown of how the money was spent. This was after they failed to answer the question.
The legislators told the authority officials that they can only be supported if they show cause for it, arguing that they have failed to meet their part of the bargain even after government meeting its own.
“Without these clarifications we cannot lobby for the sector. We want you to explain why you grossly underperformed,” Keefa said.
However, the legislators also expressed worry over the depletion of Zoka Forest and called on government to take action to save it.