The Kenya Forest Service (KFS) raked in Sh2.7 billion from its tree plantations in the year that the government imposed a total ban on logging.
A report of the Auditor-General Edward Ouko shows that KFS earned Sh2,702,904,804 as appropriations-in-aid (AIA) from forest and related forest products in the year to June 2018.
In the same period, the report shows that KFS spent a paltry Sh124.3 million out of which Sh67.7 million for seeds and seedlings and Sh56.6 million for tree planting activities.
“This translates to five per cent of revenue earned from sale of trees and tree-related products,” Mr Ouko said in a qualified opinion of KFS's books of accounts for the year to June 2018. The report was tabled in the National Assembly by Leader of Majority Aden Duale.
The government imposed a moratorium on logging in February 2016 following a public outcry over illegal felling of trees that was blamed for the diminishing water levels in the country's key rivers.
The ban was extended by a further one year in November 2018 in a bid to raise the country’s forest cover to the internationally recommended threshold of 10 per cent.
The extension of the ban has hit sawmill owners who had licences to log in public forests.
Since the ban, the cost of construction has been going up, with timber and poles becoming scarce and thus more expensive.
The Environment ministry is pushing for a Sh18 billion restoration plan in the next five years. The plan had been submitted to the Presidential Delivery Unit for funding consideration.
In his audit dated May 22, 2019, Mr Ouko has questioned the mismatch against plantation revenue of Sh2.7 billion and the Sh124.3 million spent on seeds and seedlings.
“These seedlings were planted in forest plantation areas with an acreage of 7,698 hectares against plantation harvesting of 4,909 hectares.
“Although the area planted (7,698 ha) appeared higher than the area harvested (4,909 ha), the expenditure on tree seedlings was a mismatch with the revenue earned,” he said.
Mr Ouko said the expenditure on seeds and seedlings appeared minimal and full stocking of the plantation area may not be realised.
He criticised the planting regime undertaken by KFS, saying it does not match with the international standards, which should be geared towards increasing the national tree coverage by 10 per cent every year.
“Consequently, it has not been possible to confirm the accuracy and completeness of revenue from plantation balance of Sh2.7 billion for the year ended June 30, 2018,” Mr Ouko said.