Goats Tethering at Sonangol

For Christmas gifts to its board of directors, the National Oil Company Sonangol allocated a total budget of US $2.2 million.

Watches, luggage and other extravagant accessories by luxury brands such as Cartier, Hermès, Louis Vuitton and Gucci, among others, were part of the range of gifts that the seven executive and four non-executive board members had at their disposal. These gifts were to be exchanged between them, and to be used to reward selected members of the government.

Besides the CEO of Sonangol, Francisco de Lemos José Maria, the other executive directors are Anabela de Brito Fonseca, Baptista Sumbe, Fernando Roberto, Sebastião Gaspar Martins, Mateus Morais de Brito and Raquel David Vunge. The non-executive directors are Albina Assis Africano, André Lello, José Gime and José Paiva.

When all is added up, each director had US $250,000 to spend on luxury goods.

Local analysts welcomed the appointment of Francisco de Lemos José Maria as a sign that President Dos Santos’ regime could have the political will to curtail the plunder of state assets at Sonangol. In his previous position as the company’s chief finance officer, Francisco de Lemos José Maria projected a public image of himself as being modest and competent.

In contrast, his predecessor and former chair and CEO Manuel Vicente, was renowned for his excesses at the helm of the largest state company in Angola. Occasionally, he sent the company’s luxurious Falcon 7X jet to Paris and Lisbon exclusively to collect crates of some of the most expensive wines in the world, all in order to stock his private cellar. He is now the vice-president of Angola.

Even for a regime so entrenched in institutional corruption, the millions spent on the board of directors Christmas’ extravaganza caused great dismay.  From a legal standpoint, Sonangol’s CEO, as well as its beneficiary directors, should be investigated for acts of corruption and the squandering of public funds, according to the Law of Public Probity.

The referred law prohibits public servants, in this case public managers, from receiving gifts that “by their nature and monetary value may be susceptible to compromise the exercise of the recipient’s duties with due diligence and may compromise the good reputation of the State.”

Certainly, to spend US $250,000 per director, to enable them to exchange gifts such as watches worth US $25,000 and cuff-links with a price tag of US $1,000, among other extravagant goods, is a crime, as will be proven below. Leaders who have been rewarded with such presents, according to the preferences and spheres of interest of each director, also committed crimes of corruption.

It is damaging to the good reputation of the State that the directors of the largest public company, Sonangol, spend more than two million dollars on luxury goods to satisfy their personal whims and egos. In Gambos, in Huíla province, people are dying of hunger and a humanitarian disaster threatens more than 150,000 people, ravaged by drought and famine. These citizens are also shareholders of Sonangol, for the Constitution establishes that the sovereignty of the country rests with the people. As such, that which belongs to the State belongs to the people.  Sonangol’s directors insulted the company’s rightful owners, the starving people of Angola.

Public servants are legally authorized to accept gifts that can be “immediately incorporated into the State’s assets and its public bodies or channeled, by public servants, to the benefit of community projects.”

Meanwhile, the Law of Public Probity sets out the conditions by which a public servant may accept gifts on such occasions as Christmas and New Year, “where they are appropriate in value and type, to the occasion in question.”

The directors of Sonangol authorized a massive spending spree for their personal consumption paid for with public funds. The Law of Public Probity establishes the misappropriation of funds from public entities, as well as the misuse of public funds, as crimes. Therefore, Francisco José de Lemos Maria, in his role as CEO of Sonangol, and well as the other directors, must be investigated by the Attorney General of the Republic, should this authority decide to fulfill its remit.

In the corridors of Angola’s institutional corruption, the motto is that  “the goat eats where it is is tethered”.

It seems appropriate then to say that an old insatiable goat has been replaced by a young voracious one.