Verification and Field Audit Under TLAS Implementation
Field Verification and Audit are prescribed functions under the Ghana Timber Legality Assurance System (GhLAS). The functions of verification and audit which are performed by the TVD are guided by detailed guideline manuals particularly referred to as Verification Protocols. The Verification Protocols provide guidance on processes and procedures for verifying legal compliance. The Protocols provide standardized approach to verification that ensures as well as promotes the completeness, consistency, comparability, accuracy and transparency of non-compliances violations that will be reported. The verification protocols were first field tested in March 2014 with C SOs participation that showed very promising results.
What is the Scope of application of Protocols?
The verification protocols are applied to the two main segments of the Legality Assurance System. These include compliance to the general legality requirements as described in the legality definition framework. The legality definition defines seven principles, criteria and indicators that have to be checked and verified to determine compliance.
The other segment of the LAS for verification is the entire supply chain from the forest gate to the point of export or consumption on the local market. The purpose is to clear doubts of possibility of mingling timber products for which licence has not been obtained with timber products for which license have been secured for the purposes of export from Ghana or for sale on the domestic market.
What is involved in Field Audits by TVD
The field audit which are underpinned by a set of checklists is meant to ascertain the level of compliance of FC and its operational Divisions/Departments as well as timber operators with the legal standard. There is, at least, one audit visit to every district/operator per audit cycle within the year.
Whilst fulfilling the requirements of the TLAS, the verification field audits are also designed to enhance the regulatory function of FC as well as provide assurance to the timber market at both the domestic and international about the legality status of the timber and timber products.
The main purpose of the field audits is to measure consistency of operational practices against policy and regulatory standards. An important reason is to verify operational procedures and outputs of FC divisions, timber operators and processors to ensure that they conform to laid down standards.
The field audits are also meant to put in place corrective measures to address non-conformance of legal timber standards as well as identify areas for improvement as far as timber legality standards are concerned. Another function of the field audit is to provide top management in the Forestry Commission with the necessary information to make informed decisions concerning forest law enforcement, sanctions and reward systems.
Capacity building for implementation
TVD has put in place measures/plan to train TVD field auditors with the intent to meet the field Verification and Audit requirements and challenges under the VPA implementation. In June, 2014, eight (8) TVD field auditors successfully completed a blended course titled: Guidelines for auditing management systems (ISO 19011:2011) which was delivered by CMO of South Africa. In May of 2018 two (2) TVD lead auditors undertook a training in course in forest management/legality and chain of custody auditing in UK which was delivered by the Soil Association of UK.
These training of Auditors have helped them acquire full complement of skill set and tools to enable them function properly.
The Forestry Commission has since 2010 with the support of the EU and the FAO FLEGT program organized several educational/sensitization programs on the verification protocols for key stakeholders including the divisions/units of FC, Timber trade associations, Timber companies, and law enforcement agencies, civil society groups, traditional authorities, etc. This has helped improve the understanding of the timber legality requirements and the roles and responsibilities of actors along the forestry supply chain.