Forest resources are one of the most important natural resources of the Republic of Moldova, which is one of the basic elements of the state's assets, and their rational use is a guarantee for sustainable development at all levels - national, regional and local.
On March 23, the auditors of the Court of Accounts presented the results of the Compliance Audit Report on the administration and management of the forest fund by “Moldsilva” Agency in public hearings on audits of the national forest fund, organized by the Environment and Regional Development Committee of the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova.
The auditors reported the most important findings described in the audit report. Thus, the audit found that, according to the statistical records, as of 31.12.2020, the total area of the forest fund in the Republic of Moldova was 425.4 thousand acres, including: state property - 363.4 thousand acres, of which 337.8 thousand acres (93.1%) managed by the “Moldsilva” Agency, public property of the administrative-territorial units (ATU) - 58.3 thousand acres (14%) and 3.7 thousand acres, respectively 0.01% - private property.
During the meeting, the most significant shortcomings that were the basis for expressing the general audit conclusion were presented, as follows:
- in the Real Estate Register (RER) are registered the patrimonial rights only concerning 30.9 thousand acres, or 9%, out of the total of 337.8 thousand acres, administered by the Agency „Moldsilva”;
- In order to ensure the execution of the State Program for the delimitation of real estate, for the years 2019–2023, was finalized the inventory of the forest fund lands within the districts of Briceni, Drochia, Dondușeni, Edineț, Floresti and Bălți municipality. Thus, out of the total of 393 plots of land with an area of 25.5 thousand acres and 12.8 thousand m2, only 39 plots of land with an area of 21.5 acres and 4.2 thousand m2 were registered within the RER;
- the lack of registration of forest fund lands within the RER has led to their fragmentation and arbitrary appropriation by local public authorities. Thus, 17 plots of land were identified, with a total area of 5 acres, of which 13 plots of land were alienated to individuals;
- the lands with an area of 337.8 thousand acres managed by the “Moldsilva” Agency and managed by the forestry households are not accounted for;
- During 2017-2019, the “Moldsilva” Agency did not take sufficient measures to conclude with the tenants the additional agreements regarding the increase of the amount of the rent payment. Thus, as of 30.09.2020, out of a total of 346 active leases, 58 tenants (with an area of 80.2 acres) accepted the conclusion of additional agreements on updating the amount of payment for the lease of the forest fund. Consequently, only in 2020 they led to the non-collection in full volume of the revenues liable for collection in the amount of 12 million lei;
- the inclusion in the lease contracts and the application of some provisions contrary to the interests of the lessor conditioned the non-collection of the incomes during 2016-2021 of about 2 million lei;
- the lack of adequate management by the officials of the “Moldsilva” Agency led to the registration of receivables for the payment of rent for the use of forest fund lands in the amount of 9.1 million lei, of which 5.9 million lei were compromised;
- it was found that the indicators for collecting wood approved by the Government were exceeded, so for the volumes that exceed the permitted indicator, the Environmental Agency, illegally, issued permits for cutting.
One of the tasks of the Forest Guard is to ensure the direct protection of forests by combating and preventing illegal logging, destruction, damage or other illegal use of the forest and land of the forest fund. The analysis of the data from the annual activity reports of the Forest Guard for the years 2017-2020 shows that its activity was focused more on activities related to the surveillance of the forest regime, than on combating the phenomenon of illegal logging, in the period 2017-2018, being detected a volume of wood mass obtained from illegal logging of only 254.69 m3.
In the same context, the audit found a lack of centralized storage for the timber obtained from logging, which fueled the mismanagement of forestry entities in the stock management process. For example, on the territory of the production section of Glodeni Forestry Enterprise, large quantities of wood production have been stored, kept contrary to technical norms, an imposing part being in a state of decay.
The situations found are a consequence also of the fact that, although the Forest Guard is in charge of control activities related to the management of the forest fund, the number of guards approved by the staff is insufficient, so that progress in combating and preventing illegal logging were not registered. In order to combat the phenomenon of illegal logging, the need to reform and fortify the Forest Guard Institute is obvious, with the examination of the practices of other countries.
According to the information presented by the Inspectorate for Environmental Protection, during 2017-2020, 1907 control documents were drawn up, with fines totaling 2.6 million lei and calculated damage being applied - 2.7 million lei. The degree of collection of fines during the years 2017 - 2020 amounted to 49.5%, or 1.3 million lei, and respectively related to the damage - of 21.8%, or 0.5 million lei.
Based on the audit findings, the Court of Accounts made 23 recommendations in order to strengthen the capacities for the administration and proper management of the forest fund lands and to ensure the sustainability of the forest lands.