News 22 Mar 2018
Solomon Islands Former Minister for Forest and Member of Parliament (MP) for Shortland Islands Christopher Laore says Customs did not capture the much needed revenues from logs exported out of the country.
He was speaking during the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing into the 2018 National Budget 2019, when the delegation from Ministry of Finance and Treasury (MoFT) appeared before the committee.
He said this from his experience as a minister who spent three years in the portfolio and have witnessed himself on the mismatch of figures and data from ministry of forests and customs.
Laore said he had witnessed 500,000 cubic metres of round logs for export recorded at log ponds but could not believe the revenues collected by customs from those logs, which he believed that something stink is going on.
He said, log pond is the responsibility of Customs before the logs are shipped overseas, thus it is their responsibility to ensure the export figures of logs match exactly with that of the Ministry of Forest.
He said revenues expected to collect by Customs on round logs is below what was actually recorded by Ministry of Forest, thus raising more questions on the Customs Division.
He said this has been happening over the years he spent in office as the Minister for Forest.
The former Minister said, revenues collected mismatch the data recorded by Ministry of Forest and Research (MFMR) and this is a big loss to the government and people of Solomon Islands in terms of revenues.
This has prompted him to believe that Customs did not collect enough from what is expected from them and that has resulted in low revenues and budget cuts right across all government ministries.
In response to his statement, Comptroller of Customs Nathan Kama said, his division has an estimate target every year which they strive to achieve.
Mr Kama said they record the revenues collected each month and see whether they exceed or fall short, but adding that they normally exceed their monthly target.
And he said logging is part of the strategy.
He said it is not easy to do physical check for all containers in one day at the port, but assured they keep on striving to cope with their work schedule.
Source: Solomon Star