NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 19 – The Kenya Forest Service (KFS) has published a detailed list of saw millers owing more than Sh1.2billion in unpaid forest product royalties.
The list released Thursday night, lists the who-is-who in the local timber trade and indicates that hundreds of companies owe KFS for timber products already harvested from government forest plantations.
The outstanding amounts are significant as the forestry sector contributes about Sh7 billion to the economy and employs over 50,000 people directly and another 300,000 indirectly.
“Those who owe KFS outstanding debts will not be eligible for registration unless the amounts owed are settled in full immediately,” said the public notice, signed by the Chief Conservator of Forests, Monica Kalenda.
Kalenda explained that the saw millers have been issued with a warning to immediately clear their outstanding debts or risk deregistration.
She observed that the debts have been accruing from the financial year 2012/2013 to date.
She stated that already, KFS, in collaboration with the ICT Authority, is finalising on an e-registration module for all saw millers.
“The e-registration process is part of a recommendation recently tabled by the 15-member Forest Resources Management and Logging Activities in Kenya Taskforce earlier appointed by Environment and Forestry Cabinet Secretary, Keriako Tobiko this year,” she said.
She confirmed that North-Rift based firms such as Phill Ltd (Sh62 million), New Annan (Sh43.7million) and Elgeyo (Sh17.2million) saw millers are some of the largest debtors to KFS for harvested forest products.
Other leading saw millers on the debt list include Janwill Enterprises owing Sh21.3million and Brookside Timber for their allocation in Cheboswa Forest, Kericho County.
Bekiko Ltd is also listed as owing more than Sh6million from various forest plantation blocks in Elgeyo Marakwet.
In its report submitted to Cabinet Secretary Tobiko, the Forest Taskforce chaired by Greenbelt Movement Chairperson Marion Kamau noted that illegal logging of indigenous trees is a major threat to forests and is rampant in key forest areas.
The taskforce established that cedar trees were found to be the most targeted species.
The taskforce also established that from 2017, the Kenya Forest Service has been using a direct allocation process to award forest materials to saw millers.
Prior to that, there was an open tendering process to select, award and grant saw millers timber-logging rights.
The direct allocation procedure being practiced by KFS is unfair, inadequate, and inappropriate; and the Taskforce uncovered incidences of its abuse.