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Zambia: Prosecution witness in Masebo case says corruption should get a minister concerned


Sunday Post

By Namatama Mundia   |   Updated: Aug. 22, 2015

A PUBLIC procurement expert on Thursday testified in the Sylvia Masebo abuse of office trial that a government minister should get concerned when something goes wrong in a ministry.

Testifying before Lusaka magistrate Ireen Wishimanga, in a case where Masebo is facing allegations of cancelling wildlife hunting concessions and dissolution of ZAWA management whilst serving as tourism minister, Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health head of procurement, Kenneth Mapani also said the public procurement law does not say the minister had no role in procurement issues.

Mapani, who until March 30 was the principal officer-in-charge of inspections and standards at the Zambia Public Procurement Authority (ZPPA), told court during cross-examination by defence lawyer Robert Simeza that he was ignorant on how the ZAWA issue started and ended.

He said he never played a role in the ZAWA procurement process and did not follow the proceedings concerning the case.

Mapani said a procurement process could be cancelled, adding that that was why he referred the ACC officers that approached him on October 8, 2014 wanting to get clarity on the procurement of hunting concessions as well as the applicable process in procuring such a service, to section 22 and Regulation 24.

Mapani earlier testified during evidence-in-chief led by ACC prosecutor Boniface Chiwala that the process was supposed to be advertised in the public media to would-be bidders.

“I drew them [ACC officers] to section 22 (1) F of the Public Procurement Act of 2008 as well as regulation 24 of the Public Procurement regulation of 2011. I further did indicate that what the Act and Regulation indicate is that such a mandate is vested in the approvals authority,” he said.

Mapani explained that the approvals authority was an individual or board that grant prior authorisation before any award is undertaken in public procurement matters.

Asked if a Minister of Tourism and Arts had authority to cancel a tender, Mapani said such cancellations were vested in the approvals authority.

“The honourable minister does not have a role in procurement proceedings, including the aspect of cancellation,” Mapani said.

He said the approvals authority under ZAWA was the procurement committee and the chief executive officer.

But during cross-examination, Mapani agreed that the law was silent on the role of a minister in procurement.

Further put to him that the law does not say that the minister had no role in procurement, Mapani again said that was correct.

Asked what he would expect a minister to do if something was going wrong in the ministry, Mapani said he would expect a minister to be concerned.

When told that a minister was not a passenger in the ministry or a ceremonial person who would just watch corruption take place, Mapani responded that a minister was part of the ministry and in that sense would be interested to know what was going on.

The state did not re-examine Mapani and the matter was adjourned to September 15.

Count one alleges that Masebo, between December 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013, in Lusaka, being tourism and arts minister, abused the authority of her office by cancelling the procurement process of tender number ZAWA/DG/002/2/12 for hunting concessions without following laid down procurement procedures, an act which was arbitrary and prejudicial to the rights or interests of the government.

In count two, it is alleged that Masebo, during the same period, in Lusaka and while serving in the same capacity, abused the authority of her office by terminating contracts of employment for senior officers employed by the Zambia Wildlife Authority without following laid down disciplinary procedure, an act which was arbitrary and prejudicial to the rights and interests of the government and other persons.

And after court adjourned, Masebo, in the company of UPND vice-president Dr Canisius Banda, addressed a huge crowd of supporters that turned to offer her solidarity outside the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court Complex.

Masebo said people were concentrating on wrong things.

“So you can see that people are concentrating on wrong things; instead of fixing the blackouts, tavutika ma light kulibe mu mayadi yathu, bathu basiliza time witch-hunting and prosecuting or persecuting political opponents,” said Masebo.

The role of procurement in EAC integration


Billy Rwothungeyo
September 04, 2014
The role of procurement in EAC integration                                          
 
Lately, the East African Community (EAC) heads of state have been walking the talk of the integration of the regional bloc.
The governments of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda have committed to undertake an ambitious project; the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) that will snake her way from Mombasa to Kampala and finally end in Kigali.
The proposed project is also supposed to connect to the South Sudan’s capital Juba, from Tororo. The world’s youngest nation has expressed her willingness to join the EAC regional bloc.  The project is aimed at easing the pressure on road transport infrastructure along the northern corridor, which shoulders 94% of all freight movement.
Similarly, Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan are executing another audacious infrastructure development project, the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) corridor project. Uganda is also keen in the project, as evidenced from President Yoweri Museveni joining counterparts Uhuru Kenyatta, Hailemariam Desalegn and Salva Kiir from Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan respectively in a recent Nairobi summit to explore joint financing options for the $22b LAPSSET project.
Strategic role of procurement in delivering these projects
These projects were masterminded to promote and advance the East African Common Market Protocol by boosting linkages that facilitate the movement of goods and services across regional borders.
What rarely pops up in discussions is the role procurement will play in pulling off these mega strategic projects. If the procurement processes for these projects are not managed with the utmost professionalism and scrutiny, these projects will be delayed due to administrative reviews.
Prof. Benon Basheka, a procurement expert and the Dean of the School of Business and Management at the Uganda Technology and Management University says that the procurement will play a role in the success of these projects.
“All these developments have an implication on the core function of these governments. And because procurement is one of the facilitators of this kind of work, it becomes a key input as far as integration is concerned,” he says.
Already, the procurement process for a contractor to undertake Uganda’s part of the Standard Railway Gauge project is in shambles, with the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) and China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) involved in a long and bitter fight over the tender to do Uganda’s part of the job.
The upgrade of Uganda’s existing railway infrastructure to standard gauge will cost $8b. Kenya is proceeding well on the project which has a completion deadline of March 2018.
Hedwig Nyalwal, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Kenya Institute of Supplies Management (KISM) concurs with Basheka on the significance of procurement and why it should be given more attention.
“In these projects, procurement, through various strategies, will be supporting initiative towards achievement of value for money by implementing the project economically, efficiently and effectively,” he says.
Trade enabler
Nyalwal argues that attitudes towards procurement need to change with the furthering of the integration initiatives, so that East Africans can have more opportunities of doing business across borders.
“EAC partners must realign to view procurement as a strategic function within organisations with potential to contribute to proper selection of projects, cost management, successful delivery, completion of projects, goods and services,” he says.
Nyalwal argues that with more multinationals setting up camp in the region, the right procurement framework would create more opportunities for East Africans in the supply chain as the investors seek for local raw materials.
“Some of these entities have a sourcing strategy including regional sourcing as well as outsourcing in some aspects of manufacturing. These procurement strategies act as tools that promote trade and therefore contributing to regional integration,” he says.
Nyalwal says the ripple down effect will boost trade further in The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), which all EAC member states are part of.
“COMESA members are predominantly agricultural countries who rely on strong value chains to meet individual countries food requirements. These value chains are established through national policies and implemented on sound supply chain strategies to manage the pendulum conditions of scarcity and glut,” he reasons.

What needs to change?
Harmonise legal regimes
Experts agree that procurement legal regimes in the East African member states need to be harmonised. Basheka says while the philosophy and vision is integration, the laws have not yet trodden a similar path.
“There is no procurement law that is applicable in all East African countries. Kenya has her own procurement law, so does Tanzania, Uganda and the other partner states. While we have the East African Procurement Forum, we have yet to agree on a common legal framework to facilitate integration,” reasons Basheka.
Colline Mpaata, a procurement specialist working with Strategic Insights Consult Management, Strategy and Business Development consultancy firm says attempts at harmonisation should take a multi-sectorial approach.
“This will enhance the participation of key private and public sector players. In a bid to enhance private sector led economies it will be important for the participation of the private sector and civil society in the harmonisation of the regimes. In as much as the member states involved have committed themselves towards the harmonisation of policies it’s success will greatly depend on the speed with which policies, rules and regulations, standards and the institutional frameworks can be harmonized,” he says.
Mpaata also says standardization from harmonisation will greatly reduce on the cost of doing business and brings about competition.
“With the harmonisation public procurement will provide a breeding ground for national and regional businesses to grow and compete globally. This will encourage partnerships across the region in the execution of public contracts without any limitations. For instance this will see the increased participation of Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises in public contracting.”
Nyalwal says harmonized regulations will further make it easy for the free movement of goods and services across the borders.
“Therefore a harmonized legal regime that governs procurement will facilitate trade and integration by allowing suppliers to trade freely with no legal bottlenecks arising from overlaps or inconsistencies in the individual nation’s legal regimes,” he says.
Governments being the biggest spender in each of the EAC economies, opportunities are rife for private sector players to take part in public procurement.
However, Basheka fears that individual interests of countries, if not handled well in any move to harmonise the legal regimes, could jeopardise such efforts.
“To strike the national balance, a special clause can be put, in terms of the preference, that while we are agreeing to work together as the five East African countries, on matters of particular nature, each country can have a reservation scheme for its nationals,” he says.
Need for EAC procurement secretariat?
There have also been calls from certain circles for the establishment of an EAC procurement secretariat. In fact, one of the resolutions at the recent EAC procurement forum in Kigali was that it be fast tracked.
Mpaata says that a secretariat will improve national procurement systems which will strength the member states within the East African Region.
“One of the greatest challenges faced within the region is the difference in reporting of data estimating public procurement. However with the creation of a secretariat, harmonization in reporting can be achieved where data on estimates is available from official government publication from member states can be accessed at one point,” he says.
Legalising professional bodies
Experts have also been calling for the legalization through acts of parliament of professional bodies that bring together procurement practitioners in the different East African countries.
Proponents of this idea say that all this would promote professional ethics by accrediting their members—the way the law and engineers’ societies do.
“Further, national procurement associations need to develop regional standards, including national certifications that are recognized regionally to enable skills exchange and knowledge transfer. These will further promote regional integration,” says Nyalwal.
Even on this, the EAC member states are not on the same level. In Kenya, KISM was established in 1976 as an umbrella body for those in procurement and supply chain management field.
The passing of the Supplies Practitioners Management Act in 2007 gave KISM the legal mandate to regulate the conduct of professionals under her tutelage.
In East Africa’s largest country, Tanzania, the Procurement and Supplies Professionals and Technicians Board (PSPTB) was established in 2007 by an Act of Parliament.
In Uganda, the Institute of Procurement Professionals of Uganda (IPPU) was formed in 2008, spearheaded by the Uganda’s finance ministry and industry regulator, Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA).
However, the IPPU bill, a legal framework to govern procurement function in Uganda is just in the works, yet to be presented to parliament.
Rwanda and Burundi are yet to come up with such bodies.

Ethiopia: Is ECX at it again? ECX’s upcoming procurement bid


Nazret.com November 29, 2012


By Wondwossen Mezlekia, 

The Ethiopia Commodity Exchange (ECX) is currently conducting a high-ticket international procurement – the first of its kind since a multi-million dollar bid was busted in 2010 due to alleged fraud and corruption during the bidding process.

The bid for the supply, installation, and maintenance of a futures trading software that ECX floated back in 2010 was marred by dishonest maneuvering, seemingly to favor the Sri Lanka based company, Millennium IT, and World Bank withdrew ECX’s award proposal and cancelled the loan. The loan was part of what the government had borrowed from International Development Association (IDA) for the purposes of financing the Rural Capacity Building project. [1] Strangely, the said futures trading software was not needed to begin with and would have been running idle today had ECX purchased it in 2010, because the government is, as it has always been, decidedly against price speculations and hence would not allow Forwards and Futures trade operations that the software was supposed to support.

ECX is once again preparing to spend some of the money that the government has borrowed from the Investment Climate Facilities for Africa Trust (ICF) and other donors on an online trading platform at an estimated total cost of more than $10 million (exact amount and details are withheld). Arguably, much like the futures trading software, the merit of this investment is also questionable, especially in light of ECX’s and the government’s current priorities, the details of which is for another article. The purpose of this article is to equip concerned citizens with the information and resources they need to be on their guard against corruption, and to put on notice anyone who may be under temptation or illusion to fraudulently benefit from the upcoming bid. Although there is no evidence so far, it is better to prevent corruption than to prosecute it.

According to ECX’s budget proposal that was reviewed for this article, almost 76% of the budget for the online trading project will be covered by funds from the World Bank’s Rural Capacity Building Project. ICF has agreed to cover the financing gap of about 24% of the total estimated budget through a grant. The procurement is being conducted under the auspices of the outgoing officers, Dr. Eleni Gebre-Medhin, Solomon Edossa, and Ahadu Woubshet who only have an advisory role under a one-year contract, even though the new CEO, Anteneh Assefa and other officers have already assumed their positions.

The Invitation for Bid (IFD) for the procurement of a core system for online trading, including its risk management, surveillance, and clearing components (Procurement Reference Number ECX-ICF/G/002/2012) was advertised on November 1, 2012 on national papers and online, including on dgMarket. [2] Accordingly, the bid will be opened in two phases: the technical bid will be opened on November 30, 2012 at 10:30 am local time at ECX Media Room, and the opening date for the financial bid will be announced thereafter.[3] The bidding will be conducted in accordance with the open International Tendering Procedures contained in the public procurement guidelines of the Government of Ethiopia, the ICF Guidelines[4], and the International Competitive Bidding (ICB) procedures.

The past record of the government in detecting or prosecuting suspected fraud and corruption is dismal. On the other hand, donor’s guidelines have proved to be reliable sources of defense in past disputes involving international procurement bids. Among these, ICF’s guidelines appear to be by far clearer and strictly dictating how the borrower and bidders alike should behave during the bidding process. For example, ICF not only offers to provide assistance of audit services and monitoring (Article 1.6), but also explicitly states the steps that it takes to fight fraud and corruption (Article 1.7).

Review, Assistance, and Monitoring

1.6 ICF and auditors appointed by ICF shall review the Grant Recipient’s selection process for the selection of suppliers proposed by the Grant Recipient in the Procurement Plan to ensure compliance with the Grant Agreement and these Guidelines. The Grant Recipient shall retain all documentation with respect to each contract during project implementation and up to two [y]ears after the closing date of the Grant Agreement. This documentation would include, but not be limited to, the signed original of the contract, the analysis of the respective proposals, and recommendations for award the record of justification, the capabilities and experience of the suppliers, for examination by ICF, auditors appointed by ICF or by its suppliers.

Fraud and Corruption

1.7 It is ICF’s policy to require that Grant Recipients, as well as suppliers and their subcontractors under ICF-financed contracts, observe the highest standard of ethics during the selection and execution of such contracts. In pursuance of this policy, ICF will reject a proposal for award, cancel the portion of the Grant allocated to a contract; sanction a supplier if it at any time determines that the tender process was marred by corrupt, fraudulent, collusive, coercive, or obstructive practices. In addition, ICF will have the right to require that, in contracts financed by an ICF grant. a provision is included requiring suppliers to permit ICF to inspect their accounts and records and other documents relating to the submission of proposals and contract performance and to have them audited

Articles 2.1, 2.15, and 2.21 of ICF’s guidelines also require borrowers to conduct bidding by following a two-tiered approach and based on Quality and Cost Based Selection (QCBS), which uses a competitive process that takes into account the quality and the cost of the services in the selection of the winner. The guidelines prohibit evaluators of technical proposals from having access to the financial proposals until the technical evaluation is concluded.

The Selection Process

2.1 QCBS uses a competitive process among short-listed firms that takes into account the quality and the cost of the goods and supplies in the selection of the successful supplier. Cost as a factor of selection shall be used judiciously. The relative weight to be given to the quality and cost shall he determined for each case depending on the nature of the assignment.

Evaluation of Proposals: Consideration of Quality and Cost

2.15 The evaluation of the proposals shall be carried out in two stages: first the quality, and then the cost. Evaluators of technical proposals shall not have access to the financial proposals until the technical evaluation is concluded. Financial proposals shall be opened only thereafter. The evaluation shall be carried out in full conformity with the provisions of the RFP.

Articles 2.11 and 2.12 if IFC’s guidelines even go as far as to dictating the minimum time that grant recipients need to allow between the different stages of the procurement process. For example, the minimum time-limit for receipt of proposals should not be less than 40 days from the date of the advertisement, except in emergency situations.

While these and other Articles of ICF’s guidelines appear to provide reasonable controls around each segment of the procurement processes, any control is only as strong as the people applying them. It is thus imperative that concerned citizens and bidders get engaged and attentively monitor all international bidding processes conducted at ECX and other institutions in order to prevent misappropriations of foreign aid in Ethiopia.

Report suspected fraud and corruption to Investment Climate Facility for Africa at info@icfafrica.org or projects@icfafrica.org; the World Bank Group’s Integrity Vice Presidency at investigations_hotline@worldbank.org; or Transparency International at transparency@transparency-usa.org.

[1] http://poorfarmer.blogspot.com/2012/03/is-government-serious-about-fighting_19.html
[2] http://www.dgmarket.com/tenders/np-notice.do~8547811 (dgMarket is an international portal for tenders and procurement opportunities from governments and international organizations)
[3] The time elapsed between the date of advertisement and the bid opening date appears to be shorter than the minimum time limit set under Articles 2.11 and 2.12 of ICF’s Procurement Guidelines
[4] http://www.icfafrica.org/documents/ICF-Procurement-Guidelines-for-Goods–Suppliers.pdf

Read more about ECX at http://poorfarmer.blogspot.com/p/ecx-watch.html
Contact the writer at poorfarmer@gmail.com

Kentz Nabs $45m EPC Solar Power Project In South Africa


Ventures-Africa.com

November 12, 2012

VENTURES AFRICA – Global engineering solutions provider, Kentz Corporation Limited, has been awarded a $45 million Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contract for the 75MWp Kalkbult Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Project in the Northern Cape area of South Africa.

Scheduled to be completed by January 2014, the EPC project is a key component of Phase 1 of the South African Department of Energy’s 3,725MW Renewable Energy IPP Procurement Program.

“We continue to develop our EPC capabilities in the African region and this prestigious project for Scatec Solar demonstrates our ability to secure a wide range of EPC contracts,” Chief Executive of Kentz Group, Christian Brown said.

The award of such a key project for South African renewable energy will position us to contribute to the development of further renewable energy projects across the continent and beyond,” he added.

With over 14,000 employees in 29 countries  of some of the most remote locations on earth, Kentz serves a blue chip client base primarily in the oil, gas, petrochemical, and mining and metals sectors. The company generated revenues of $1.37 billion and profit before tax of $79.4 million in the year ending December 2011.

S.Africa okays $5.4 bln in clean energy projects


Reuters Africa

October 29, 2012

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa has given the green light to an initial $5.4 billion worth of clean energy projects that will allow it to procure 1,400 MW of electricity and help reduce reliance on coal-fired plants, the energy minister said on Monday.

The government has selected 28 wind and solar projects in the first stage of the programme, with the contracts expected to be signed on November 5, Energy Minister Dipuo Peters said.

“These bidders will be investing about 47 billion rand in power generation and will create a number of jobs during construction and operation of these power plants,” Peters said in a statement. The plants are due to be operational between 2014 and 2016.

Africa‘s largest economy depends on coal for 85 percent of its electricity supply of around 41,000 MW. Last year it launched a process to procure cleaner energy to reduce carbon emissions and bolster electricity supply.

A key producer of platinum, gold, iron ore and coal, South Africa has been struggling to meet fast-rising demand for power.

The process of adding more renewable power to the grid has dragged on for years and raised doubts about the government’s ability to deliver on its plans.

It has also chosen another 19 renewable energy projects worth 1,043.9 MW in the second stage of the programme, which it hopes to finalise by late March next year. A third bidding round will close on May 7.

South Africa wants to use the green energy drive to boost job creation through manufacturing and requiring energy companies to source materials locally.

While the original procurement plan was to eventually add up to 3,725 MW of green energy to the national grid by 2016, the programme has recently been expanded to source an additional 3,200 MW of renewable power by 2020.

Apart from green energy, South Africa plans to procure more than 9,000 MW of new electricity produced from coal, gas, regional hydro and co-generation at industrial plants by 2025. Other plans include a tender for 9,600 MW worth of nuclear power.

© Thomson Reuters 2012 All rights reserved

Tanzania: Minister tells procurement network to fight bureaucracy


October 6th, 2012

By Felix Lazaro, The Citizen Reporter

Dar es Salaam. Deputy Finance minister Saada Mkuya Salum has called for formulation of more initiatives that will address problems of bureaucracy and secrecy that mar the country’s public procurement practices.

Speaking on Wednesday during the Commonwealth Public Procurement Network 2012 African Regional Conference in Dar es Salaam, she said despite various procurement reforms undertaken, the desired results were yet to be fully achieved.

“Our countries have procurement legislations and bodies to oversee their implementation. Despite these impressive structures and reforms we all complain about bureaucracy and secrecy surrounding these procurement systems,” said Ms Salum.

Lack of transparency in procurement, she said, needed to be addressed to improve efficiency and diligence, particularly in realizing value for money, quality and timely delivery.

She expressed her optimism that the meeting would act as a catalyst to the country’s procurement regime as well as those of other African countries and the deliberations bring forth procurement experiences and best practices.

Ms Salum said if the right inputs and appropriate processes of procurement were put in place, the chance of getting good outputs were high.

“Our people want to see good services in the health sector, education, water and others, while they all happened within the budget,” she said.

For his part, retired Justice Thomas Mihayo said after Tanzania had operationalised the Public Procurement Act, 2004 for sometimes, it has become clear that it was not just the matter of compliance but the need to go beyond that and see if the Act delivers the intended goals.

“Are we really getting value for the money spent? Are the social and environmental concerns addressed when making procurement decisions?” quarried Justice Mihayo whos is the Acting chairman of the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority’s board of directors.

Justice Mihayo said the meeting should be the catalyst for the country to achieve necessary reforms in its public procurement system for it to deliver effective and sustainable outcomes.

Liberia’s Forestry Dept. Giving Large Amounts Of Land To Logging Firms


 

Huffington Post

By Richard Valdmanis

DAKAR, Sept 4 (Reuters) – Liberia‘s forestry department has given a quarter of the nation’s land to logging firms over the past two years in a flurry of shady deals now under investigation by the government, advocacy group Global Witness said on Tuesday.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, fending off accusations of graft and nepotism within her government, has suspended the head of the West African state’s Forestry Development Authority and launched a probe into the recent timber deals amid concerns of widespread fraud and mismanagement.

Global Witness said its research revealed that the scale of the deals marked a serious threat to the war-torn and impoverished country’s vast rainforests, as well as to the hundreds of thousands of people who depend on them.

“A quarter of Liberia’s total landmass has been granted to logging companies in just two years, following an explosion in the use of secretive and often illegal logging permits,” the group said in a statement.

“Unless this crisis is tackled immediately, the country’s forests could suffer widespread devastation, leaving the people who depend upon them stranded and undoing the country’s fragile progress since the resource-fuelled conflicts of 1989 to 2003.”

Global Witness conducted the investigation with two other advocacy groups, the Save My Future Foundation and Sustainable Development Institute

Corruption is seen as a big obstacle to development in Liberia, which remains one of the world’s least developed countries nearly a decade after the end of a 14-year civil war.

The government has been struggling to clarify land ownership issues across its vast forested zones, traditionally divided along ethnic lines.

Global Witness said about 26,000 square kilometers of land had been granted to timber companies through at least 66 so-called Private Use Permits – lightly regulated deals between timber companies and private land owners.

It said many of the deals made with individuals said to own the land were backed by land deeds held in the collective name of people of a district or clan who had little knowledge of the accords and would reap little benefit from the timber exported…Read more.

 

Cameroon Palm Oil Plantation Withdraws Sustainability Application


Pratap ChatterjeeCorpWatch Blog

September 6th, 2012

A subsidiary of Herakles Capital, a New York based investment firm, has decided to cancel its application to join the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) after environmental groups alleged that its 73,086 hectare project in southwestern Cameroon would threaten the sustainability of the local community.

In 2009, the SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon, Ltd. (SGSOC), which is wholly owned by Herakles Capital, acquired a 99 year lease to land in Ndian and Kupe-Manenguba divisions where it drew up plans for a $350 million palm oil plantation. (Herakles Capital has several other investments in Africa such as the Bujagali dam in Uganda, the Boke Alumina Project in the Republic of Guinea and an East African undersea fiber-optic project.)

“From its very name, American-owned SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon, Ltd. (SGSOC) presents a pro-environment, pro-resources image,” writes Frederic Mousseau, policy director of the Oakland Institute in California in a new report released this week. “(But it) is also part of a strategy to deceive the public into believing that there is logic to cutting down rainforests to make room for palm oil plantations.”

SGSOC has gone to great lengths to convince the public that it is socially responsible. “Our project, should it proceed, will be a big project with big impacts – environmentally and socially,” Herakles CEO Bruce Wrobel wrote to the Oakland Institute in July 2011. “The big question – and the real story – is whether it ends up strongly positive or strongly negative. I couldn’t be more convinced that this will be an amazingly positive story for the people within our impact area.”

In addition to Herakles, Wrobel operates a non-profit dedicated to poverty reduction named “All for Africa” that boasts board members like Nigerian-American actor Gbenga Akinnagbe who shot to fame in The Wire, a U.S. TV series, and the film: The Taking of Pelham 123.

And SGSOC also applied to join the international Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which has signed up 779 members and associates including almost every major industry player in the world, in an effort to burnish its social responsibility credentials.

Indeed RSPO was created in 2004 to address the numerous clashes over palm plantations around the world with the help of non-government organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund which helped set up the organization.
But the palm oil industry – which produces 50 million tons of edible oils and biofuels a year – remains deeply controversial.

As CorpWatch writer Melody Kemp noted in her recent article for us “Green Deserts: The Palm Oil Conflict” the plantation companies make money in two ways: First they clear cut and sell the existing high-value trees, burning the residue. The haze from those forest fires has interrupted regional air traffic and caused severe respiratory illnesses in countries like Indonesia, Malaysia as well as Singapore. Then the companies plant the spiky oil palms trees, creating vast, eerily silent monoculture plantations.

Activists have sparked a raging debate over the industry, faulting palm oil for contributing significantly to carbon dioxide and methane emissions, the loss of biodiversity and precious carbon sequestering forests, land subsidence, poverty, and for exacerbating starvation resulting from land appropriation.

The very same problems have been predicted in an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) conducted by SGSOC itself. The company assessment suggested that the negative impact of the plantation on livelihoods will be “major” and “long-term.”

Nor is the Herakles investment the most efficient way to support the local economy, according to a report by on the SGSOC deal by two Cameroonian NGOs, the Centre for Environment and Development (CED) and Réseau de Lutte contre la Faim (RELUFA). The groups calculated that the government of Cameroon could generate 13 times more employment and significantly larger tax revenue if it were to require local bread-makers to use 20 percent locally produced flour (derived from sweet potatoes, corn or cassava), using just 15,000 hectares of land.

Local farmers and politicians are especially skeptical of SGSOC because palm oil plantations are not new to the region. Beginning in 1927, companies like Pamol have operated similar projects for decades. “Plantation jobs have always been modern day slavery,” says Joshua Osih of the Social Democratic Front, Cameroon’s main opposition party, in an interview for the film “The Herakles Debacle” just released by the Oakland Institute. “We’ve seen a lot of industrial plantations develop around this area and nothing, absolutely nothing, has happened positively to the population.”

“Everybody here is self employed,” Okie Bonaventure Ekoko, a cocoa farmer from Mboko village told the film maker Franck Bieleu. “There is no advantages that the people here will have (from Herakles investments). We don’t need them, we are fine.”

“And if they come and say they want to take this land from us, we are not ready for it,” says Esoh Sylvanus Asui, a farmer from Bombe Konye village. “We will fight and we will die for our land.”

In May 2011, some 50 local and international environmental and community groups wrote a letter to Wrobel expressing concern. In March 2012 a number of the same groups lodged a formal complaint against Herakles with the RSPO alleging that Herakles’ project violated Cameroonian laws and noted that it “would disrupt the ecological landscape and migration routes of protected species.” Meanwhile local farmers have begun to organize against the project. On June 6, 2012, villagers from Fabe and Toko held a protest against the plantation during the visit of the local governor.

On August 24 2012, Herakles withdrew its application to the RSPO.

“The RSPO regrets this withdrawal of membership by Herakles Farms,” the organization said in a brief statement posted to its website. “This action pre-empts recommendations from the RSPO Complaints Panel to further verify the allegations made by the complainants.”

The company did not respond to requests for comment from the media.

South Africa Government : Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries hands over financial and procurement irregularities investigations to Police


4-Traders

August 7th, 2012
DAFF hands over the investigations in the fisheries branch to the SAPS

6 Sep 2012

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has officially handed its investigation into suspected financial and procurement irregularities, maladministration, and corruption in the Fisheries Branch of the department to the South African Police Services (SAPS).

“The investigation is effectively out of the hands of the department and the Minister. Once complete, the SAPS will advise the department on appropriate actions to be taken,” the acting director general, Sipho Ntombela confirmed.

In March 2012, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, initiated a forensic investigation into the award and multiple extensions of the vessel management function to a shipping management company. Essentially the investigation had to establish whether there were irregularities in the past tenders and management thereof awarded to the company and to its business associates. Smit Amandla Marine has been providing the vessel management function to Government for the past 10 to 12 years.

The investigation mentioned above has reached a critical stage and the department has thus decided to hand it over to the SAPS for finalisation.

“The initial investigation was carried out by a reputable forensic firm that uncovered that there are possible cases of corruption in the Fisheries branch. The investigation by the SAPS is a culmination of this process”, Ntombela concludes.

Below please find a timeline of the events leading up to the handing over of the case to the SAPS:

Timeline:

  • 2000 to 2005: The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism awards Smit Amandla Marine a tender for five years
  • 2005 to 2010: The contact is extended for another five years, no tender process
  • 2010: Contract is extended for a year
  • 2011: Contract is extended for a year
  • March 2012: Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries initiates investigation into the matter
  • August 2012: Initial findings reveal possible irregularities in procurement, financial management and corruption

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