Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has suspended two ministers and senior officials for alleged mismanagement of the forest sector.
Agriculture Minister Florence Chenoweth who chairs the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) was suspended along with the agency’s board of directors.
They are accused of failing to abide by the new forestry law which requires the involvement of the community through Private Use Permit (PUP).
The president’s move followed a recommendation by a special investigative committee she constituted to probe the alleged mismanagement of the forest sector by government officials.
The suspensions were announced Thursday by the chair of the committee, acting Justice minister Counsellor Benedict Sannoh at the information ministry’s weekly press briefing in Monrovia.
Minister Sannoh said government over the past few years lost between $12 and $15 million due to “reckless disregard of the PUP which allows the rights of communities in the new forestry laws reformed in 2006”.
The Acting Solicitor-General accused those involved of violating the PUP by issuing permits to logging companies without due diligence which call for the protection of reserved forests.
The committee recommended the nullification of all logging activities in the country and the prosecution of those alleged to have plundered the forest sector pending the reconstitution of the FDA board.
It further proposed the revocation of all PUPs for failure to comply with the National Forestry Reform Law.
A special Panel to conduct an inventory of all logs that have been felled in PUP operations that institutes confiscation proceedings for the auction of logs catalogued in the inventory.
“I remain committed to protecting our people and ensuring that our natural resources are used to benefit the country and communities in which those resources are found.
“It is very clear from this report that while the introduction of PUPs was meant exclusively for Private Land owners, the process was abused by investors, government employees and community leaders. This cannot and will not be allowed to stand. Punitive and corrective action will be taken to ensure this situation is not repeated,” President Johnson Sirleaf said as she endorsed the recommendations.