By Chris Lang
In November 2011, PricewaterhouseCoopers warned that “The implementation of REDD+ in DRC will face numerous challenges because of the widespread nature of corruption in the country”. As in all other sectors, PwC added, corruption is “likely to be ever present”.
PwC’s report, “Implementing REDD+ in the Democratic Republic of Congo: How to manage the risk of corruption” (pdf file 3.7 MB), was commissioned by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD).
“Risks of corruption will threaten the implementation of REDD+ in DRC in all of the phases,” PwC states in the report and notes that,
In fact, a number of politicians, including those in the government circles and Parliament, as well as high-ranking civil servants, are currently engaged in industrial and artisanal logging. Congolese armed forces are also involved in mining, and some of the mines that they operate are situated in forested areas. Investors are also increasingly interested in agribusiness in DRC. Oil companies are also vying for contracts to explore oil in forested zones. Many are these investors are also business associates of politicians on whose protection they rely. It is therefore likely that such individuals or groups of people would be keen to influence the design of the national REDD+ framework for their private gain.
In October 2012, Global Witness reported that industrial logging companies were abusing “Artisanal Logging Permits” in order to bypass DR Congo’s freeze on new logging concessions announced in 2002. “The Congolese authorities have been routinely breaking their own laws when handing out these logging permits,” says Colin Robertson of Global Witness.
Two months later, the International Monetary Fund halted a US$532 million loan programme to DR Congo over concerns with transparency in the country’s mining sector. Global Witness commented that “concerns over possible corruption in the country’s mining sector were so serious that the IMF was justified in stopping its lending”.
Lars Ekman, a senior adviser in NORAD, has spent 10 years in Africa including two years in Kinshasha where he supported and facilitated PwC’s November 2011 corruption report. At a seminar in Norway in 2012, Ekman told the following story to show that “corruption threats are very real” for REDD in DR Congo:
“One Sunday morning in Kinshasa, I was asked by a person to come and meet him and pick up a brown envelope. There was no money in there, but a very interesting document that this person wanted to have action upon. It was a draft contract between a known businessman in Kinshasa and the government, the Ministry of Forestry and Environment. The contract proposal was a 25 year monopoly right to market carbon offsets from an area of 50 million hectares, which is about one-third of the forest area of Congo.
“There was a lot of pressure on the Ministry, because this businessman, who had a track record in the diamond industry in the Congo, had a very good relation with the President’s office. So there was some considerable pressure..
“What we did was to send a message jointly, us and UN-REDD and the World Bank that the REDD pilot in DRC would be off called, cancelled, if this contract was signed. I don’t know whether it was signed or not, but it hasn’t been live so to speak and had any direct affect.”
While this story provides a fascinating glimpse into corruption in DR Congo, it also raises several questions. On 15 November 2012 (and again on 29 November 2012), REDD-Monitor sent the following questions to Lars Ekman. So far, Ekman has not replied. Should he do so, I look forward to posting his response.
UPDATE – 7 February 2013: Ekman replied on 6 February 2013. His response can be read here.
1. Transparency is essential when dealing with corruption issues. Did you make a copy of the draft contract available publicly? Do you still have a copy of the contract and if so, could you please send me a copy?
2. You say that the draft contract is between a “known businessman in Kinshasa” and the government. Who is the “known businessman”? Was the “known businessman” one of the Blattner family?
[UPDATE – 24 January 2013: See the comment from Brandon Blattner below.]
3. Is the message that NORAD, UN-REDD and the World Bank sent to the DR Congo government publicly available? If not, why not?
4. Did NORAD, UN-REDD or the World Bank react in a similar way with any other REDD projects in DR Congo? For example, when Shift2Neutral, Ecosystem Restoration Associates or Conservation International set up (or attempted to set up) REDD projects in DRC.
5. Did NORAD, UN-REDD or the World Bank react when McKinsey drew up its report on REDD in DRC in five weeks (a report that spectacularly failed to address the serious governance and corruption problems in DRC)?
6. I think it’s almost certainly good that NORAD, UN-REDD and the World Bank reacted to the draft contract you received, particularly as it covered such a large area. My concern however, is that the action did not really address corruption in any meaningful way. Couldn’t the same “known businessman” set up another REDD type project (or any other type of project) using his contacts in the government, just being more careful the next time about who gets to hear about the proposal before it is signed?