Auditing for Sustainable Development: Central African countries join forces to conduct Congo Basin Forest Audit
It was a special week for Cameroon. The nation was overcome with joy, as the “indomitable Lions” – the national football team - snatched a historic fifth Africa Cup of Nations title in Gabon. On their way back home, the football players would have flown over a vast green surface, the forest of the Congo Basin. On the flight from Libreville to Yaoundé you don’t see boundaries. All you see is the dense jungle, from time to time crisscrossed by muddy rivers belonging to a vast hydrographic system shared by the countries of the region.
What unites Gabon and Cameroon is this shared natural environment, the second largest tropical forest in the world. The Congo Forest is a unique natural habitat with thousands of endemic plant species shared also with the Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic and obviously also the Democratic Republic of Congo and Equatorial Guinea. The destinies of the nations of the Congo Basin are linked by the forest – an extremely important economic factor, yet also a fragile ecosystem.
From afar the forest looks largely untouched. But flying over the canopy more closely, you can see that the clearing of the forest is a reality. You discover newly built roads, and on these roads the so-called “grumiers”: large trucks tirelessly transporting freshly cut wood logs. Every year, hundreds of thousands of hectares of forest disappear. The deforestation has also far deeper consequences, affecting the biodiversity of the region, local cultures and traditions and even the climate. Endemic species such as the Bonobo ape and the Okapi are endangered.
With this background, the Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) of Cameroon, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo signed a memorandum of understanding in February in Yaoundé in which they agree to undertake a major coordinated audit on the sustainable management of the Congo Basin Forest. The Republic of Chad also signed the agreement, as an associate member. The project was launched jointly, because in addition to the national forest management frameworks existing in each country, there is a sub-regional governance framework with a dedicated organisation, the Central African Forests Commission (COMIFAC).
The objective of the SAIs is to check whether systems were put in place to allow for sustainable forest management. For this the auditors will receive support from experienced environmental auditors and scientific experts that will help them to identify and understand the main threats to the forest, as well as assist in assessing the data they collect. During the course of the project, the auditors will meet on several occasions to discuss the shared methodology and receive training in performance auditing in order to ensure the projects meets the international standards of the profession.
For GIZ’s partner organisation,) the audit is a major project. It focuses on the management of an ecosystem that allows tens of millions of people to survive. Beyond that, it is potentially the climate of the whole planet that can be affected by the uncontrolled exploitation of the Congo Basin Forest.
GIZ supports AFROSAI through its Good Financial Governance in Africa Programme. The programme is financed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the European Union and supports AFROSAI in its mission to strengthen the capacities of SAIs on the African continent. GIZ supports SAIs as crucial players for sustainable development. Their audit missions improve governance for the well-being of populations. Concretely this means a better quality of life, better public services, and a healthy environment for everyone.
Written by Tassilo von Droste zu Hülshoff and Mathuto Mashego