Verification of compliance
Before the authorities in a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) partner country can issue FLEGT licences they must ensure that timber products are legal. This means checking that all the requirements of the VPA legality definition have been met by operators, suppliers or anyone else each legal requirement targets. The authorities must also ascertain that supply chain controls ensure that licensed products only come from legal sources.
A VPA describes how a partner country will deal with cases of non-compliance and enforce corrective or preventive measures.
To be reliable and credible, verification requires unambiguous evidence that timber products and related activities comply with the requirements set out in a VPA legality definition.
Evidence is gathered from physical checks and documentation, and information and/or data systematically collected and verified at different steps along the supply chain.
Procedures for documenting and archiving evidence allow the licensing authority in a VPA partner country to assess the legality of a shipment before issuing a FLEGT licence.
Organisations verifying legality may be government agencies, market participants, third-party organisations or a combination of these groups. Roles and responsibilities for all groups involved in verification should be clearly defined and documented. Once a FLEGT licensing scheme goes live, an independent auditor will regularly check and report on implementation, which includes the effectiveness and potential shortcomings of verification.
In the African countries that have signed VPAs to date, government agencies are responsible for verification. Some have engaged service providers to help with this task.
In Indonesia, the Ministry of Forestry appointed independent private companies, called Conformity Assessment Bodies (CABs), to verify private sector and governmental compliance with the legality definition. CABs are accredited by Indonesia's National Accreditation Body and operate under ISO/IEC 17065 rules. Overall oversight of the licensing function of the timber legality assurance system remains the responsibility of the government.