Previously, the state Forest Department director could issue these licences without referring to the state cabinet.
KUCHING: All short-term timber licences will be approved by way of open tender effective immediately, says the Sarawak government in an effort to enhance transparency.
The licences will also only be issued for state land approved for development and not subjected to native customary rights (NCR) claims.
Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg today said short-term licences for timber extraction on state, NCR and native communal reserve lands would no longer be issued at the sole discretion of bureaucrats.
“The licences, which can be valid for a duration of a year, depending on the size of the forest area, will only be issued after a committee has approved the successful bidder and after it has vetted every application.”
There have been complaints in recent months that the approval process for small land-clearing permits did not comply with standard operating procedures.
Prior to today’s announcement of the change, the state Forest Department director could issue a short-term timber licence for a forest area of up to 1,000ha without referring to the state cabinet.
Abang Johari, who is also the state minister of resource planning and environment, said the tender documents detailing the status, size, location and accessibility of the land would be prepared by the Forest Department.
The Forest Department will also estimate the value of the timber based on land size and quality of existing trees to determine the reserve price for each tender.
Tenders will be advertised in local newspapers and the Forest Department website and will close 30 days after the date of advertisement.
Last December, PKR said the 251 occupational tickets (OTs) and letters of authority (LAs) licences that had been issued since 2014 could have been due to abuse of power.
“It appears that some senior officers in the ministry have been abusing their authority to issue timber licences in the form of OTs and LAs, without the knowledge of the ministers, in defiance of or evading and sidestepping the ministerial directives,” Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How had claimed.