Forests have a multifunctional role and it takes a long time for them to form, and the importance of ensuring a good diversity of species makes sustainable use and conservation of forest resources a task of national importance.
In this context, the Court of Accounts of the Republic of Moldova (CoARM), on December 20, examined during an online meeting, the Audit Report on compliance of administration and management of the forest fund by the “Moldsilva” Agency.
The purpose of the audit was to assess the degree of compliance applicable to the processes of administration and management of the state forest fund, in particular whether the mechanisms applied to the management of the lands of the state forest fund correspond to the legislative and normative framework in force.
The audit found that, according to 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, or 0.01% - private property.
During the meeting, the most significant shortcomings were presented, which were the basis for expressing the general audit conclusion, as follows:
- in the Real Estate Register (RER) are registered the patrimonial rights only on 30.9 thousand acres, or 9%, out of the total of 337.8 thousand acres, administered by „Moldsilva” Agency;
- 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, Edinet, Floresti and Balti 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 non-registration of forest fund lands within the RER has led to their fragmentation and arbitrary appropriation by third parties. Thus, were identified 17 lands assimilated by the local public administration (LPA), being modified their use, from the forest fund to agricultural or construction land, and 13 plots of land were alienated by third parties;
- the audit found that on a land of the forest fund, excluded from the management of the forestry enterprise Sil-Răzeni, within the RER is indicated as a way of use "agricultural land", and in fact on it are built constructions, which, according to the data within RER, are agricultural and agro-industrial constructions;
- the lands with an area of 337.8 thousand acres managed by “Moldsilva” Agency and managed by the forestry households are not accounted for;
- The “Moldsilva” Agency (according to the Government’s Decision no. 770 from 17.06.2016) during 2017-2019, 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 revenues receivable 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 in the years 2016-2021 of about 2 million lei;
- the misinterpretation and misapplication of the rules of law by “Moldsilva” Agency has created conditions for the transfer of leases related to forest lands, creating the necessary premises for third parties to capitalize on them through arrangements, the value of which could be estimated at about 5.8 million euros.
- the lack of adequate management by the officials of “Moldsilva” Agency led to the registration of receivables for the payment of rent for the use of the lands of the forest fund in the amount of 9.1 million lei, of which 5.9 million lei were compromised;
- it was found that the wood mass collection indicators 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 forest and land under forest. The analysis of the data from the annual activity reports of the Forest Guard during 2017-2020 shows that its activity was focused more on activities related to forest surveillance, than on combating the phenomenon of illegal logging, during 2017-2018, being detected a volume of wood obtained from illegal logging of only 254.69 m3.
In the same context, the audit found that there was a lack of centralized storage for the timber obtained from logging, which fueled the mismanagement of forestry entities in the inventory management process. For example, on the territory of the production section of Glodeni Forestry Enterprise, large quantities of wood production have been stored, which is 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 was 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 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.
The Court of Accounts emphasized that forest resources are one of the most important natural resources of the Republic of Moldova, which form one of the basic elements of the state's patrimonial assets, and their rational use, in the broad sense of the notion, is a guarantee for sustainable development at all levels - national, regional and local.
Based on the audit findings, the Court of Accounts made recommendations in order to strengthen the management and administration capacity of the forest fund lands and to ensure the sustainable sustainability of the forest lands.