Possible embezzlement halts WWF-run REDD project in Tanzania
Two conservation and community projects in Tanzania have been halted after the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) reported possible corruption. WWF is running the projects with funds from the Norwegian government. One of the projects is a pilot REDD project, a program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in tropical, developing countries.
"We have had an issue with fraud in two programs in Tanzania and when we had a basis for acting, there was a firm response. We believe this is what we owe our many honest, committed staff and our donors and supporters," Phil Dickie with WWF-International told mongabay.com. "We are continuing to investigate and have installed an interim management team."
In response to the WWF announcement the Norwegian government has suspended funding for the time being to the projects. The first project, allocated around $4.5 million, was working to empower civil society organizations in order "to improve the contribution of fisheries, forestry and wildlife to national economic growth, poverty reduction and people's livelihoods," according to the WWF website.
The second program, allocated around $2.5 million, would help monitor carbon stocks in Tanzanian forests for REDD.
WWF has estimated that around $85,000 may have been misappropriated, but is currently waiting on the investigation. Following the discovery, eight employees were let go and one resigned.
"The [Norwegian] Embassy was informed by WWF in December 2011 regarding suspected corruption and irregularities in the implementation of WWF financial policies in the use of Norwegian project funds, and the intention of WWF to conduct investigations to resolve the matter," Næss Inger with the Norwegian Embassy told mongabay.com "In response, the Embassy suspended all further disbursements to the two projects. WWF have engaged Ernst & Young to conduct an independent investigation of these irregularities and the Embassy is awaiting receipt of the report before making any further decisions, in line with our policy of zero tolerance to corruption."
The Norwegian government says WWF will be responsible for paying back to the government whatever funds have gone missing, but the setback will not stop REDD projects in Tanzania or elsewhere.
"Norway is committed to assisting countries like Tanzania prepare for a future international REDD+ mechanism and expect all our partners to demonstrate good levels of governance in the management of programs/projects," Inger said adding that, "while this kind of incident is regrettable it should not prevent the many other valuable initiatives from progressing for the overall benefit of Tanzania and Tanzanians. As such, we will continue to support not only Tanzania but also global efforts to address climate change."