in DR Congo

Corruption and REDD in the Democratic Republic of Congo

In a recent country profile, Transparency International notes that the Democratic Republic of Congo “continues to struggle with repeated political crises, weak governance, mismanagement of natural resources and entrenched corruption”.

What this might mean for REDD is the topic of a recent report published by the Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, U4.

The report is written by Samuel Assembe-Mvondo, a climate policy scientist with CIFOR, the Centre for International Forestry Research. It can be downloaded here.

Assembe-Mvondo notes that, “A large amount of work has been done to try to mitigate corruption in REDD+, but risks remain.” His study found four types of corruption related to REDD implementation in DRC (outlined in detail below).

DRC receives funding from several sources for its REDD implementation process, including the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and Forest Investment Program, the UN-REDD Programme, the Congo Basin Forest Fund of the African Development Bank, and bilateral support from Norway and the USA.

The report starts with a brief history of DRC since independence in 1960. Dictatorship, coups, war, and “extremely poor governance” have plagued the country. Assembe-Movondo sums up the backdrop for REDD as follows:

Key problems include endemic poverty, the contestation of the present political regime’s legitimacy by many citizens, the absence of state authority throughout the Congolese territory, systematic poor governance over public and natural resources, and widespread corruption.

He notes that there are various laws and government entities that are supposed to address corruption, but that “they are largely ineffective because of a lack of capacity and a weak political will”.

The report moves on to forest governance and deforestation in DRC. Despite a legal framework to manage the country’s forests, “the forestry sector is in reality poorly governed”, Assembe-Movondo writes.

Illegal logging is widespread, although DRC entered into a voluntary partnership agreement with the EU in 2010. DRC’s rate of deforestation is relatively low, but there are signs that it could increase rapidly over the next two decades.

Here’s how the Assembe-Movondo describes the four types of corruption in REDD implementation that he found in DRC:

Payment of kickbacks

  • One civil society expert interviewed for this study was hired as a consultant by the National REDD+ Coordination body (CN-REDD) to research the introduction of the REDD+ process. This individual claimed that the research project manager initially proposed to the funding organisations that 10 days were needed to collect field data, at a rate of USD 300 per day. In reality, two things occurred: 1) The consultants were told they would be paid USD $300 per day in salary payment. However, the project manager forced the consultants who were hired by the National REDD+ Coordination body to surrender to him $100 of the $300 per day as a kickback for being hired. The consultants therefore received only $200 per day. 2) The project manager claimed that the consultants would work for 10 days on the project. In reality, however, the consultants were allowed to work only 5 days on the project. If a consultant refused to pay the kickbacks to project officials, he or she risked being blacklisted from selection during future competitive bid calls.
  • Civil society interviewees stated that the practice of designating or appointing officials to represent ministries in workshops and seminars organised in Kinshasa largely depends on prior acceptance by the appointed representative to hand over a fraction of the per diem received to the minister. This practice, which was already an entrenched part of ministries’ work on other topics, is now common in REDD+ workshops in the DRC.

Political cronyism in REDD+ positions

  • Interviewees stated that REDD+ positions within the MECNT [Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation, and Tourism] are politicised in that positions are awarded to individuals affiliated with the same political party as the incumbent minister or the head of the relevant public body. For example, the national coordinator of the DRC’s National REDD+ Coordination body (CN-REDD) belongs to the same party as the minister of environment, nature conservation, and tourism, and this party (the Christian Democratic Party, or PDC) is, in fact, also the president’s political party. The politicisation of employment positions makes it more likely that REDD+ funds could be channelled to finance political parties.

Non-transparent use of REDD+ funds and inadequate reporting on REDD+ projects

  • Two civil society representatives and an MECNT representative interviewed for this study stated that international NGOs and international development cooperation agencies do not always transparently manage the REDD+ resources intended for the DRC. For example, the Minister of environment, nature conservation, and tourism requested that an international organisation conduct an independent audit of funds received by this international organisation for the implementation of REDD+ in the DRC. Organisational officials in Kinshasa denied this request on the basis that only the international organisation in question was authorised to make such a request. Additionally, these interviewees stated that on the eve of a project evaluation mission sponsored by a donor partner, an international NGO succeeded in concealing the absence of tangible results for the project by influencing people in various villages located in the project area.

Non-transparent consultancy contracts

  • Several interviewees accused international development cooperation agencies of selecting international and national consultants on the basis of non-transparent criteria, including prioritising political connections over competence. Some international consultants selected are said to be incompetent, suggesting possible collusion between international development cooperation officials involved in REDD+ and those international consultants.

The report recommends setting up an independent agency in DRC to monitor REDD finances and projects. Of course, there’s the problem of how to establish an independent agency in DRC that is not subject to the sorts of corruption outlined in Assembe-Movondo’s examples above.

And the fact that REDD money is so far only trickling into DRC makes these examples of corruption in REDD all the more worrying.

PHOTO Credit: Global Witness.

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