It is so disappointing that Government has been so selective in making efforts to enhance operations and functions of some of its departments in an effort to deliver services to the general public.
While it is appreciated that some departments are given priority because of the critical role they play in running affairs of Government, some other important ones have still been neglected to the extent of even neglecting officers in those departments.
Forestry Department is one such a Government department that has been neglected so much not only by the current Patriotic Front Government but also other previous Governments that were in power before.
The most critical issues contributing to non effectiveness of the department include erratic and inadequate funding to the department for its operations which has affected mostly District Offices in all the provinces of the Country where the office of the Forestry exist. However, the Minister of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection has tried to support the department by promoting tree planting after a very long time of about over 20 years though with bad timing and lack of proper advise from forest professionals at Forestry Headquarters.
Secondly the non restructuring of the department cannot pass without any comment. Officers are still under old conditions of services making them among Government officers that are paid very low salaries.
Why should a situation where under the same Government but in different ministries, some officers are paid higher salaries while others are paid very low salaries yet they hold the same qualifications for the jobs they do, be tolerated?
The Government must show some seriousness in addressing some of these serious anomalies which have made certain ministries become non effective with demotivated officers.
Government cannot fail to secure funds for restructuring such smaller departments if it managed to restructure bigger ones like health. This cannot go on without mentioning that it is very much possible that some money meant to commence the restructuring of Forestry Department could have been released by Government but might have been diverted by unscrupulous leaders within the Government system.
I therefore wish to call upon His Excellency, President Michael Chilufya Sata to develop interest in the matter and follow it up critically because Forestry Department is an important department which plays a vital role in conserving the country’s environment.
Deforestation is increasing at an alarming rate with over 300,000 hectares been degraded annually in Zambia. It’s up to the Government to ensure that the department is fully funded as well as officers are paid accordingly especially that the Government recently conducted Job valuations in all ministries. I only hope that there will be a good report out of it and that as they start negotiating for good conditions of service for public workers, a positive result shall come forth.
The other area to be looked at is the issue of having district offices run by officers with different qualifications whereby at one district, its run by a degree holder while at another district, it’s run by a Classified Daily Employee even when there is someone with better qualifications.
I hear that the Minister of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection will be presenting the Bill for restructuring the department in Parliament and only hope that every meaningful Member of Parliament will be able to support it.
Forestry Department Staff.