•The question by the auditor is why the activities declined yet the government had increased funding under the National Tree Planting Programme.
•A total of 555.9 hectares of forest land were illegally acquired by private parties.
The Kenya Forest Service has been put in a spot over Sh318 million spent on the National Tree Planting Programme.
An audit has flagged infractions in the expenditure, with Auditor General Nancy Gathungu saying the forest service has not done enough to increase the country’s forest cover by 10 per cent.
KFS spent Sh110.3 million on tree seeds and seedlings and Sh207.8 million for tree planting activities and produced 39,522,634 seedlings in 290 tree nurseries across the country.
However, the service facilitated the planting of 23 million tree seedlings against a planned target of 250 million during the two planting seasons.
“This was 9.2 per cent achievement on the overall target which was associated to low funding and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The question by the auditor is why the activities declined yet the government had increased funding under the National Tree Planting Programme.
“Consequently, it has not been possible to confirm the propriety of Sh318.1 million incurred for the year ended June 30, 2020,” Gathungu said.
The audit also revealed that KFS could be losing hundreds of millions of shillings in missed earnings following the moratorium on logging issued by President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2018.
The order was placed to increase forest stocking and rehabilitate degraded areas with the aim of increasing the national tree cover – which increased by 0.03 hectares (0.07 acres).
“Because of the forest moratorium, the service did not earn any revenue compared to 2019 when it realised Sh252 million with respect to plantation revenue,” the auditor reported.
The auditor said KFS also performed poorly in matters of natural forest conservation, leading to the non-realisation of set targets, yet expenditure in seeds and seedlings increased.
New stocked areas established were 4,826.1 hectares (11,925 acres) compared to the 7,898 hectares (19,516 acres) done in the previous year – a drop of 27 per cent.
Protection for natural regeneration planted 588,393 hectares (1,453,950 acres) against an annual target of 900,000 hectares (2,223,948 acres) while enrichment planting covered 783 hectares (1,934 acres) against a target of 3,000 hectares (7,413 acres).
“It is not clear whether the planting regime undertaken by KFS matches with the international standards which should be geared towards increasing the national tree cover by 10 per cent every year.”
KFS, the audit revealed, has also lost 555.9 hectares (1,373 acres) of forest land illegally acquired by private parties.
The lands are occupied by third parties in Kipkabus, Tingwa and Ngong Forest. Another 25 hectares (61 acres) in Uasin Gishu have unpermitted operational installations.
For installations, some were not permitted through a licence while others were licenced but the same remains unpaid for.
Among the entities occupying the Eldoret land include Ministry of Energy (0.7 ha), Kenya Airports Authority (1.9 ha), Nabkoi Water Project (10 ha), Kapsaret Water Project (1.8 ha) and the Uasin Gishu county cemetery (16 ha).
Gathungu said the illegal occupancy has led to loss of revenue that can benefit taxpayers.
“Failure to have licences for installations and to collect revenue results to loss of revenue and illegal use of the land,” she said in her review of KFS books of accounts as of June 2020.
In what reveals the extent of the exposure of KFS land to grabbers, only 77 blocks out of 265 gazetted forest blocks have title deeds. Titles for at least 25 are being processed.
Gathungu said there were undetermined areas of land with ownership disputes in court between the service and private parties.
The auditor reprimanded KFS for failing to disclose which of the 265 blocks are recognised as heritage assets as required by accounting standards.
Heritage assets are parts of the forest that form part of the conservation areas and nature reserves, forest and allied forest resources.
The auditor said the present value of Kenya’s forestry assets remain unknown after KFS failed to revalue the same.
KFS has a policy document to guide in the management of its assets but the management did not provide any evidence that valuation has been carried out as required by the policy.
“In the circumstances, the fair statement of assets in the financial statements could not be confirmed,” Gathungu said.