THE Ministry of Forestry and Research on Thursday described as “misleading” accusations that junior officers have hijacked the work of the Commissioner of Forests.
Community leader, Charles Karaori, earlier this week accused junior officers of having taken over the work of the Commissioner, including signing off on statutory documents which he said could be illegal.
Mr. Karaori also accused officers of treating foreigners differently from local loggers.
Despite the denial, the Ministry of Forestry and Research has somewhat confirmed elements of Mr. Karaori’s accusations.
“There is no such ‘hijack’ in any nature (that) have occurred within the Ministry. It is absolutely misleading,” the Ministry said in a statement issued yesterday. It took the Ministry a full week to issue its denial.
But in the same statement, the Ministry somewhat confirmed some aspects of Mr. Karaori’s accusations.
“What has been the usual practice is the Commissioner of Forest delegates work to junior officers, and at times may also act on his behalf with prior notification to his office when seen necessary,” the statement said.
“As for the stimulus package applications as alleged, the Forestry Office has no part (in endorsing) any application except to verify tree farmers including local sawmills, milling licenses and support applicants with letters only.”
The statement said no officer had been sidelined for any nature and no different treatments are given to foreigners or locals as also alleged; everyone is treated equally.
“Officers understood their job description well and the procedures within, thus, act on what is only rightful and legal, the statement said.
The Forestry Office also confirmed the allegation on envelopes being delivered at the car park largely to foreigners.
“This is in the case of export permits,” the statement said.
“The practice in the past is when a permit is prepared (and is) ready (to be picked up), then on request by the client, it is delivered at the car park. This has been changed,” the statement said.
“The usual practice now is (that) all export permits are delivered to the Central Bank of Solomon Islands (CBSI) and clients can get a copy from there.”
“These are all baseless allegations, and are totally opposite to what we as a Ministry has in place with positive improvements on many fronts over the years,” the statement said.”
“The Forestry Office accepts such criticisms however urges the public to be vigilant and not to be carried away with misleading information.
“The Ministry of Forestry and Research is here to serve everyone on equal grounds and will be grateful that such complaints and allegations are channelled through the rightful procedures, so appropriate actions can be taken.”
Mr. Karaori said he stood by his comments and would be issuing further statements on his return over the weekend.