Revealed: How rogue KFS staff stole millions in timber deals

By Caroline Chebet, Giants Club African Conservation Fellow, The Standard.

Published 6 May 2018.

Deep-rooted corrupt practices and lack of accountability has cost the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) millions of shillings in revenue, a new report has revealed. The report by the task force formed to investigate state of forests in the country, says KFS has failed in its mandate of restoring degraded forest areas in water towers, leading to huge losses and theft of revenue.

“The Board and Management of the Kenya Forest Service has been unable to stem and in some instances have directly participated in, abated, and systemised rampant corruption and abuse of office,” says the report.

“By so doing, they have overseen wanton destruction of our forests, have systematically executed plunder and pillaging of our water towers and bear the responsibility for bringing our environment to the precipice.” According to the task force formed two months ago, Kenya’s forests have been depleted at an alarming rate of about 5,000 hectares annually. Despite being the sole regulator of the National Forest Programme and authority to determine quantity and prices of timber, KFS is said to have abused its authority in deliberately underestimating quantity and quality of plantation stock earmarked for sale, resulting in loss and theft of revenue.

The loss, estimated by the task force to be about 50 per cent of KFS revenue, is then shared between the Service’s rogue staff and other parties, says the report. In Elgeyo Forest station, where such cases are rampant, the task force noted collusion between KFS and saw millers in undervaluing trees for their own benefit. Unfair direct allocation The situation has led to the government losing revenues amounting to Sh197,845,485 in four forest compartments.

In one instance in a plantation, trees valued at Sh8,526,000 were sold for Sh1,345,890, leading to a loss of Sh7,180,110. In another instance in the same forest station, the government lost Sh64,860,075 after KFS sold trees worth 94,911,075 at Sh30,051,000. According to the report, the KFS strategic plan of 2018-2022 shows a shortfall of 56.4 per cent –156,000 hectares of 350,000 hectares – in restoring degraded forest areas in the water towers. The task force reported that since last year, the Service has been using a direct allocation process to award trees to saw millers, a process which is considered unfair and inappropriate. “Prior to that there was an open tendering process to select, award and grant saw millers timber-logging rights. The direct allocation procedure being practised by KFS is unfair, inadequate, and inappropriate; and the task force uncovered incidences of its abuse,” the report says. Irregular allocation of trees to certain saw millers, the task force states, is part of the corrupt deals by the service, citing an example of Buffalok Limited and Mawaka Limited, sawmills that were allocated large amounts of trees against the number given to other millers of the same status.

  • Read the original story here. This story is reproduced here as part of the Giants Club African Conservation Journalism Fellowships, a Space for Giants programme to expand the reach of conservation and environmental journalism in the four countries where we work.