Members of Parliament on the Natural Resources Committee have tasked officials from the National Forest Authority (NFA) to account for over shs5 billion meant for sector activities in the 2017/2018 financial year.
The NFA officials led by the Executive Director, Tom Obong Okello, were responding to issues raised by the committee on their budget performance for the past financial year.
According to a report presented by NFA, of the shs29.5 billion the authority’s revenue was shs20.5 billion yet the expenditure performance stood at shs15.2 billion which MPs on the committee chaired by Hon. Keefa Kiwanuka (NRM, Kiboga East) queried.
“If you look at things like forest products and tree seedlings, these are things that are easy to predict but why haven’t they been worked on as budgeted for?” asked Hon. Denis Sabiiti Bamwoya (NRM, Rubanda West ).
Sabiiti also alluded to the reason for the creation of the NFA in 2003 which he said was intended to check on illegal forestry management, adding that, “why should Government give you funding when you are not showing performance?”
The National Forest Authority that is responsible for managing Uganda’s central forest reserves, was created as a semi-autonomous corporation through the National Forestry and Tree Planting Act of 2003 to replace the Forestry Department that had existed before.
Nakasongola Woman MP, Hon. Margaret Komuhangi said the officials needed to furnish the committee with information on their performance, “if you do not get the figures correct, then we cannot properly scrutinize NFA activities”.
MPs also queried the Authority’s response to reports of staff allegedly involved in illegal forest activities like deforestation and encroachment.
Obong Okello acknowledged the concern and revealed that there were deliberate efforts to curb forest degradation and charge those involved.
“Without beating around the bush, I can say that there has been involvement of our staff in illegal activities but we are tracing them and will hold them accountable,” Obong Okello said.
Obong Okello added that over 2000 hectares of forest were restored in the 2017/2018 in Mabira, Bugoma and Zirimiti forests among others, with 8557 hectares freed from encroachment in Budongo, Muzizi and Achwa forests.
“Some illegal activities like tree cutting take place in Mabira but not to the extent of threatening its existence,” said Obong Okello adding that, “a lot has been done to protect this forest”.
The committee granted the NFA officials two weeks to present a comprehensive expenditure framework..