Faulty Land Management: The damning revelations of the Court of Auditors on the Bandia Wildlife Reserve

In its 2019-2021 report, the Court of Auditors denounces severe irregularities in the land management of the Bandia Wildlife Reserve, covering an area of 3,500 hectares (65 km from Dakar on the road to Mbour). While the Reserve is supposed to be an example of sustainable forest management, auditors from the Court of Auditors discovered a series of alarming shortcomings, shedding harsh light on the dubious practices that persist in the sector. A thorough examination of activities on the site revealed several irregularities, including “non-compliance with the provisions of the concession protocol and non-compliance of the development plan with current regulatory provisions.”

Despite the prohibition of any permanent construction without prior authorization, RB Sarl erected several structures without ministerial approval, thus violating the terms of the protocol. On the land front, the Bandia Reserve faces thorny issues. According to the Court, the 3,500 hectares operated by RB Sarl are likely to infringe on the perimeters of several municipalities. These include Sindia, Diass, Notto Diobass, and Tassette. This raises questions about the spatial distribution of the Reserve in the municipalities and the revenue-sharing key among these. Despite the Directorate of Water, Forests, Hunting, and Soil Conservation (DEFCCS) having carried out a mapping exercise that includes the distribution of the concession area within the perimeters of known municipalities based on territorial limits set by the National Land Planning Agency (Anat), the problem remains unresolved.

Arrears in the payment of the annual lease tax According to this DEFCCS map, the land leased to Rb Sarl is distributed in the adjacent municipalities as follows: Sindia (2680 hectares) representing 76.57%; Diass (537 hectares) representing 15.34%, and Notto Diobass (46 hectares) representing 1.31%. “In any case, neither the material error identified in Articles 13 and 15 of the protocol nor the absence of a revenue-sharing key should have prevented the payment of the amounts due since, in the spirit of the protocol, it is the territorial authority of the jurisdiction intended to benefit through the ‘Bandia community.’

Thus, RB Sarl should have paid the full amount of the allocations each year to the designated accountant who can collect the revenue and record it in a temporary allocation account, pending the competent authority’s establishment of a revenue-sharing key,” the Court writes. The Court also looked into the management of other leased hunting zones (Zca). By decision No. 29/Ckrd/Pc of August 10, 2007, the former Regional Council of Kolda authorized Chantal Bertrand to lease (granting a leasehold on land or a rural operation benefiting from periodic payments in kind or money) a hunting area known as Sédhiou/Relais Fleuri covering an area of 60,000 hectares. Ms. Bertrand must pay an annual lease tax of 2,100,000 FCFA and other fees provided by the Hunting and Wildlife Protection Code. However, “based on the receipts provided by the lessee (tenant of cultivable land), the latter has not paid the full amounts due for this tax,” discovered the Court of Auditors. Ms. Bertrand owes the Senegalese State the sum of 3,150,000 FCFA for arrears in the payment of the annual lease tax.

The Foundiougne Departmental Council, Maurice Malerbaud, and the specifications By decision No. 07/CDF of April 15, 2016, the President of the Foundiougne Departmental Council authorized the development of a hunting area located in the Djilor municipality covering an area of 43,000 hectares. Based on this decision, the DEFCCS (to be specified) established and submitted to Maurice Malerbaud for signature a set of specifications to determine the clauses binding the parties in locating hunting rights in the Djilor/Passy Chasse hunting area. Under Article 10 of these specifications, the lessee pays an annual lease tax of 1,505,000 FCFA for the area allocated to them. The Court notes that at the time of the review, this tax had not been paid for 2020 and 2021, resulting in arrears totaling 3,010,000 FCFA.

In his response, Lieutenant Colonel Modou Moustapha Sarr, former regional inspector of Water, Forests, and Hunting in Fatick, admits that the lessee still owes the annual tax of 3,010,000 FCFA to the State. He forwarded to the Court the “reminder letter” sent to Mr. Malerbaud. The leased hunting zone of Kandia is also located in the Vélingara department, covering an area of 30,000 hectares. During the review period, two lessees successively operated it. These are Amadou Tidiane Diallo (decision No. 2017-02/AA/CDV/P of December 22, 2017) for the years 2019 and 2020, and Yangoène Simon Pierre Coly (decision No. 2021/007/AA/CDV/P of December 6, 2021) for the 2021 campaign. Their operation of the hunting zone is regulated by specifications drawn up by the Director of Water, Forests, Hunting, and Soil Conservation and approved by the Minister responsible for Water, Forests, and Hunting.

A revealing financial audit The financial audit reveals alarming figures regarding the management of the Bandia Wildlife Reserve. Among the most concerning data are: “Firstly, unpaid royalties. The Bandia Sarl Reserve (RB Sarl) owes the Senegalese State unpaid annual royalties of 74,422,500 FCFA. Additionally, the yearly allocations intended for the adjacent territorial communities have never been paid since the protocol came into effect in 2004, totaling an amount of 81,216,000 FCFA for the period 2004-2023. Secondly, inconsistencies in the figures: significant discrepancies were noted between the data provided by RB Sarl and the financial reality of the Reserve. These inconsistencies call into question the reliability of official financial information and underscore the need for a thorough audit of the Reserve’s accounts. The figures show regional disparities in the distribution of revenues generated by the Reserve. Some regions disproportionately benefit from economic returns, while others are neglected, fueling regional inequalities.

Finally, ineffective use of funds: despite the investments made, the figures reveal an inefficient use of funds allocated to the Reserve, with few tangible results to show for it. This situation raises questions about the relevance of investment choices and the management of available financial resources. These figures highlight significant deficiencies in the financial management of the Bandia Wildlife Reserve and underscore the need for immediate action to address these issues and ensure transparent, equitable, and effective use of reserve resources. The recommendations of the Court of Auditors include: “

-Establish rigorous and regular monitoring of concessionaires’ activities to ensure compliance with financial and contractual commitments and

-Strengthen control and collect royalties owed to the State, notably by sending reminder letters and formal notices in case of non-payment and reviewing concession protocols to clarify financial obligations and ensure equitable revenue-sharing between the State and adjacent territorial communities.

-Improve coordination among the various entities involved in managing hunting areas to ensure consistent application of regulations and procedures. And strict enforcement of legislative and regulatory provisions regarding natural resource management to avoid irregularities and violations.”

These recommendations aim to improve transparency, efficiency, and governance in the management of leased hunting areas, ensuring sustainable exploitation of natural resources and preservation of ecological balance.

Related Images: