The National Wood Tracking System (WTS)
The national wood tracking system (WTS) is a sub-component of the Ghana Timber Legality Assurance System. The tracking system is to ensure that timber entering the supply chain originates from legal sources and that timber flows are controlled throughout the whole supply chain.
The WTS mechanism is designed to monitor and track compliance of operators along the chain of custody of timber from the forest gate to the point of export or on the domestic market. The Ghana Wood Tracking System(GhLAS) is predominantly electronic in character. However, in extreme situations when the electronic system fails, it will be augmented with a paper based mechanism as a back-up.
The GWTS has been extensively and intensively field-tested during the roll-out exercise which included a range of small-medium and large industry holdings and has been proven to be robust, efficient and effective for purpose. In 2014 a field test undertaken with John Bitar & Co. Ltd. (JCM) as part of the initial national roll out of the system provided clear demonstration of the level of efficiency that the eWTS could introduce into the forest management system. A hint was its ability to reduce the transaction time in producing digital stock maps from a Four to Six weeks using hand drawing to three days as using the WTS. It also enables a real-time data reconciliation along the chain of custody.
How does the WTS ensure Compliance?
In order to enable as well as ensure a structured and objective monitoring and tracking of compliance, the TLAS identifies a number of discrete points along the supply chain where the national forest administration require forest operators to comply with certain contractual obligations as stipulated by relevant law and procedures. These discrete points are referred to as critical control points in the GhLAS administration.
The main function of the WTS is to collect data on status of compliance by operators with respect to their contractual obligations as required per the contractual requirements along the supply chain. The data sets collected at these control points are reconciled successively with the addition of new data sets in the process chain. On a near real-time bases, the eWTS labels all non-compliance cases as red flags and which may constitute flash points for prompt investigation and verification through field audits. At the point of application for a FLEGT license, the system is interrogated to ensure that there are no outstanding red flags or Corrective Action Requirement (CAR) from field audits. If there is no such outstanding CARs the operator’s application for FLEGT and/or Export Permit application is honoured and the licenses are issued. The function of the management and data reconciliation of the WTS is under the jurisdictional mandate of the Timber Validation Department.
How are identified Red Flags in the WTS dealt with;
A Red Flag highlighted by the eWTS may usually not require field verification in the sense of the TLAS. Red Flags report issued from the WTS are mainly classified into two main categories. The first category refers to issues that do not necessary constitute breaches of prescribed laws and procedures. Such minor red flags could come about as a result of a contractor number appearing twice in the system or wrong species identification below the permitted harvesting threshold. Such cases will be referred to the relevant FC departments or Units for immediate rectification. However, where the Red Flags constitute actual violation of operator contractual obligations as legally prescribed procedures, these will be promptly followed with field verification as necessary. The result of the field verification could either clear the operator for FLEGT licence or lead to refusal of FLEGT licences.
Capacity building for effective implementation;
There have been series of capacity building workshops for operational personnel in all the relevant FC Divisions and Unit involved in the usage of the eWTS. These include the Forest Services Division(FSD), Timber Industries Development Division(TIDD), the Resource Management Support Centre (RMSC) and the Timber Rights Allocation Unit (TRAU). The training workshops whose objectives was to equip field staff with the knowledge and skill necessary for the effective handling of new technological tools for the eWTS comprised of both hands-on training in a classroom setting field trials.
So far field staff in the relevant divisions/units of FC have been adequately trained and equipped with the knowledge and skill on how to use the eWTS to capture the following data:
- Stock survey
- Checks Survey
- Tree information(TIFs) data
- Log Information(LIFs) data
- Log Measurement and Conveyance Certificate. (LMCC)
- Check point
- Mill processes
- Final inspections and Export data.
The field staff have been proficiently working with the eWTS tools in the capture of backlog data through manual data entries. The objective is to ensure that old logs in the mills which are not more than two years old have their records loaded unto the GWTS. Currently, staff have been using the eWTS tools to capture live data electronically, alongside the manual, backlog data entry.
Switch Over into A Full eWTS Environment
Persuaded by the effective and efficient deployment of the eWTS, the leadership of the Forest Services Division has recently issued a directive to all staff concerned to notify about a FC corporate policy to switch from the manual system of operations to the fully electronic system of doing business effective January, 2018. . Most of the operational field staff in the districts and units have moved on to the electronic system so far even though there are few issues that must be cleared to enable a total switch over. These issues are nonetheless being addressed swiftly and it is anticipated that all other districts and areas would be on the fully eWTS soon.