The independent auditor is an essential element of a FLEGT VPA. The auditor is expected to check every three to 12 months if the VPA traceability system (the Legality Assurance System) works as planned and whether it is efficient in guaranteeing legality of the timber produced. The work of the auditor, who will be appointed by the government, should be factual and evidence based and includes field checks.
The auditor reports to the Joint Implementation Committee, consisting of representatives of the European Union and the FLEGT partner country. Its main findings are public. The ToR for the auditor are detailed in an annex to the VPA agreement.
(NB: The independent auditor is called independent monitor in the case of the Ghana VPA. There is currently agreement that this term should not be used when referring to VPA audits).
In Cameroon and Republic of Congo, there is an active independent monitor of forest operations, whose appointment is not necessarily linked to the VPA and whose remit goes beyond the VPA. The monitor undertakes an analysis of governance, spots malfunctions in forest law enforcement both at field level as well as government level, aims to improve transparency, and supports an improved law enforcement system, including sanctions. The independent monitor has been appointed by the government. The role of the independent monitor has become an integral part of the VPA in Cameroon and Congo. To date this role has been mostly fulfilled by two NGOs in different countries: Global Witness and REM.
The VPA process would be considerably strengthened if there was systematic ‘civil society monitoring’ focusing on the impact of the VPA on law enforcement, poverty, community rights etc. Approaches to this are being tested in Indonesia, Cameroon and Liberia, and the issue of independent monitoring, including by local civil society is the subject of a research project initiated by FERN, Global Witness and partner NGOs.
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