Foul Play: Corruption and the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations

On 31 January 2010, Egypt emerged the victor in the Africa Cup of Nations, for the seventh time. Celebrations erupted in Cairo, while in Angola, which organised and hosted the championship, the final marked the return to reality.

The Angolan government announced that is has spent $600 million on building four stadiums. The 11 de Novembro Stadium, in Luanda, with a capacity of 50 000, was budgeted at $227 million. In a country where the government rules through corruption and disrespect for the law, public works projects invariably involve shady institutional decisions regarding state contracts, to the primary benefit of political leaders.

In between the football matches I took the time to investigate the points at which corruption and influence peddling could potentially occur in the process of organising the Cup of Nations. The first case that I am reporting concerns the inspection contract for the construction of the Luanda stadium, which was performed by Soenco, a company belonging to the deputy-minister of Public Works, José Joana André.

On 28 October 2009, at a session chaired by the President of the Republic, José Eduardo dos Santos, the Council of Ministers approved “the contract to provide services of co-ordinating and inspecting the construction work, supplying and installing equipment for the 11 de Novembro Football Stadium, signed between the Ministries of Finance and Public Works and the company Soenco – Projectos e Consultoria, Limitada [Projects and Consulting, Limited], to a value of USD 11 344 433,30”.

In practical terms, the Council of Ministers merely rubber-stamped a contract that was already well on the way to being implemented.

Soenco is a company created on 30 August 2006, by the vice-minister of Public Works, José Joana André. On 8 February 2010, José Joana André was appointed Secretary of State for Construction in the new government under the Third Republic. Although his title changed, his job remains essentially the same.

His partners in Soenco are two officials of the ministry: Rui Celso da Silva and Maria Manuela Ferraz, who until early February this year, were respectively the minister’s chief of staff and top adviser. The third nominal partner is a private individual, Celso Paulo Correia Teixeira. While serving as Secretary of State for Construction José Joana André, is also the managing director of Soenco. Rui Celso da Silva and Maria Manuela Ferraz, while public officials, are also managing directors of the same company.

From the legal point of view, the contract between the Ministries of Finance and Public Works and Soenco contravenes article 10 (2) of law 21/90, known as the Law on Crimes Committed by Public Office Bearers. The law forbids government officials from engaging in business for profit, in the following terms:

“The public office bearer who in any way receives patrimonial advantage as a consequence of a judicial or civil act in relation to interests that he holds, by virtue of his functions … will be punished with prison or a corresponding fine.”

The government entrusted to the Ministry of Public Works the task of building and managing the football stadiums for the African Cup of Nations. For this reason, José Joana André had the power to exert influence and make decisions concerning the preparation and management of the infrastructure of the stadiums.

It was his duty to oversee and inspect the works commissioned by the state. In this capacity, José Joana André officially supervised the work of his own company on the 11 de Novembro Football Stadium.  The Chinese firm Shanghai Urban Construction Group Corporation built it.

Likewise, Rui Celso da Silva, while chief of staff of the minister also falls under the same law, as well as Maria Manuela Ferraz, who currently heads the Agostinho Neto new campus project on behalf of the Ministry of Urbanism and Construction.  This new government body is the result of a merger, for the Third Republic, between the ministries of Urbanism and Housing as well as of Public Works.

On 28 June 2008, during the opening of the Eleventh Extraordinary Meeting of the MPLA Central Committee, the President of the Republic and Head of Government, José Eduardo dos Santos said rhetorically: “A member of the government can be a shareholder, can hold shares in a company, but must not get involved in its management, nor disrespect the principle of exemption and impartiality in exercising his official duties.”

This presidential speech has been used as an incentive for the abuse of power, and for institutional corruption, given that the president himself disregarded the law in making the pronouncement that I have just quoted. There are several top government officials who own dozens of companies, which are run by national and foreign managers, but whose business success depends entirely on contracts with the very government departments of which they are in charge.

Even if José Joana André did not take up his position as managing director of Soenco, he still broke the law when, as deputy minister of Public Works, he decided on or facilitated the awarding of a contract to his own company.

This culture of unchecked corruption at the heart of government is also illustrated by the awarding  to Soenco  of the  contract  to  inspect the  renovation works  at  Luena

airport, in the Eastern province of Moxico, in 2008.

This conflation between public duty and private interest has caused inestimable damage to the state, and resulted in public projects of poor quality being carried out
at astronomical cost. The corruption at the highest tier of government is a matter of public knowledge. This invites foreign firms to join in the party and flout the law so as to maximise their personal dividends and commercial profits.