The monitoring and verification firm, Société Générale de Surveillance (SGS), is reportedly negotiating with the government to become the new forestry monitor. The presence of an independent monitor is a requirement of a $15 million World Bank loan that has been delayed several times already.
The Swiss company pulled out of a similar contract in 1997 due to security concerns after it was asked to monitor illegal cutting and export operations.
SGS sat down with the government and the World Bank to revise the recently drafted Terms of Reference (TOR) for the job, two months after Global Witness (GW) was fired. A World Bank official involved with forestry said the controversial TOR was being reworked by SGS to address "some of the same questions that people have raised concerns about".
The TOR was widely derided for creating a rubber stamp monitor, rather than one that would be seen as independent and credible.
An official at the Department of Forestry and Wildlife cautioned that the search for a new forestry monitor was not yet over, adding that it could take a month before a formal contract was signed. He said the government still wanted to "establish some conditions" with SGS before it finalized the deal.
A spokesman for SGS said he was unaware of the negotiations.
The government apparently attracted few takers for the post, and in its final review, SGS was reportedly one of the few qualified respondents.
"Not too many people are willing to get involved," said GW's Marcus Hardtke. "If [the new monitor] is whitewashing for the government, they face serious reputational risks.