— But enthusiastic to strategize for funding
The current trend of the economic situation causing hardship in Liberia does not only border on the ordinary people, but also on agencies of the government as evidenced by delay in salaries and ineffective operations of many institutions of government due to budgetary constraints.
One of such institutions of government is the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), which controls the forest sector to ensure that the three activities in the management of Liberia’s forest are carried out; conservation, community forest, and commercial activities.
FDA Managing Director, C. Mike Doryen says financial constraint facing the entity is enormous like any other government agency in the current situation, highlighting the welfare of staff, logistics and power maintenance as key among the confronting issues.
“We are like any government entity that has an allotment coming from the Ministry of Finance to us. This allotment, in the past and in my time, has not been coming for the past six, seven or eight years,” said Mr. Doryen.
According to him, the FDA has 575 permanent staff and 130 non-permanent staff, some of who are assigned to the various national parks and regional offices across the country.
“Our staffs are widespread and it is quite challenging. In addition to this, the central office here is not connected to the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) or the Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation (LWSC), and our generator uses up to 65 gallons of fuel a day, Director Doryen said, adding, “We also have our employee buses that have been repaired and we are to travel outside of Monrovia which together causes us around US$10,000.”
At a media engagement forum on February 26, 2020, Mr. Doryen said to remedy the situation confronting everyone at all levels now, FDA has to be innovative to devise strategies that will enable the entity to generate money for sustainability.
Primarily, FDA generates money from commercial logging which goes directly to the government’s consolidated account. Since money generated through this medium does not go to the FDA account, the Managing Director said they have to devise other means to generate money from non-timber products, and this collection is carried out at various checkpoints. Non-timber products from which fees are collected include charcoal, dried meat, round poles, etc.
This strategy of generating revenue has been yielding fruit, dating from the days of Managing Director Doryen’s predecessors to now, as indicated in the following statistical data: In 2014 the FDA collected in January and December L$3.2 million and $3.4 million respectively; 2015 January and December L$4.7 million and L$3.1 million, 2016 January and December L$3.2 million and L$2.3 million; 2017 L$3.6 million and 2.10 million in January and December, and 2018 January and December L$2.3 million and L$2.03 million.
However, this progressive approach according to DG Doryen had some fluctuations that got them to decide on introducing a Mobile Money collection system to curb the financial improprieties. Before the media engagement, the FDA had been accused in a media report that it was involved with corruption; something the Managing Director described during his deliberation as “just noise” that is made to counter his transparent conduct of activities of the entity.
“With this introduction, we were able to raise in December of 2019 the total of L$5.24 million from our existing sources, plus $840,000 that was sent to their operational account, and L$13 million in January of the same year,” said Director Doryen.
Doryen said in addition to the innovative system put in place to collect fees to help provide the needs of the entity; they also have stringent measures in place that help to curtail spending that is not just necessary. “For instance, I have cut down entertainment that no employee here will rely on the FDA to drink wine or eat things that they used to eat. Even the water I am serving you today, I will pay, and employee wanting to drink can buy his.”
In the protection of protected forests, the FDA Managing Director said illicit mining in the forest is a “battle” to contend with, but assured that those who are engaged in it would desist soon as the FDA has its own operational plan and strategy to get them out of the forest.
One report suggests that some illicit miners are in the Gola Forest mining and disturbing the habitat of wildlife.