Smoke and Mirrors in the General State Accounts

The Angolan National Assembly will approve in the coming days the General State Accounts for 2011, despite the fact that no expenditure reports have yet been delivered on more than more than 70 per cent of what was budgeted for the year. The 2011 General State Budget included expenditures in the order of 4.1 trillion kwanzas (US$ 43.9 billion).

According to the Law on the General State Budget (2010), “the General State Accounts bring together the accounts of all organs [of state and government] that are included in the General State Budget.”

According to records that Maka Angola has had access to, not all sovereign bodies and ministries have presented their accounting reports, as it is required by law.

The Presidency and the Supreme Court are the State bodies whose expenditure reports do not appear in the General State Accounts. Ironically, the Office of the Vice-President of the Republic, who at the time was Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos “Nandó,” presented their accounts in accordance with the law.

Of the 28 ministries that made up the government before the 2012 elections, 14 presented their accounts, as did the Secretary of State for Human Rights. The ministries of Territorial Administration, Public Administration, Labour and Social Security; Environment, Social Affairs and Reintegration, Defence, Education, Finance, Interior, Justice, Youth and Sports, Foreign Affairs, Health, and Transportation are the ministries that failed to present their accounting records. After last year’s elections, President José Eduardo dos Santos increased the number of ministerial posts to 33.

Also missing from the General State Accounts is the report on the government’s Privatisation Plan, and how revenues from it were spent. This is made worse by the absence of “an indication of State participation in public enterprise,” as required by the budget law.

The intelligence services, which one might expect to be secretive about their financial affairs, in fact met all their legal obligations in submitting their expenditure reports. These include the Foreign Intelligence Service, the Military Intelligence and Security Service, and the State Intelligence and Security Service.

Even the Chief of Staff of the Angolan Armed Forces, who is responsible for the management of military operations and weapons stocks, presented its report. By contrast, the Defence Ministry, which has political responsibility for the military, was unable to account for its spending.

Useless court

In a further breach of legislation, the National Assembly is to approve the General State Accounts without the previous approval of the Court of Auditors, which is required by law.

The Court of Auditors simply states in its annual report that “up to now, the Court of Auditors has not issued any opinion on the General State Accounts.”

On May 10, 2012, the then Finance Minister, Carlos Alberto Lopes, declared at a press conference that the government had already drafted the General State Accounts for 2010.

However, these accounts seem to have been forgotten by the government without being discussed and approved by the National Assembly as required by law.

“The General State Accounts referring to economic activity in 2011 are in the process of being devised, and the timing for their announcement will be at the end of June this year [2012],” Minister Lopes said.

In fact, these accounts were never presented. President Dos Santos, in his capacity as head of government, never offered any justification for this gross violation of the Budget Law.

The vice-chairman of the MPLA parliamentary bench, Ferreira Pinto, told the Angolan News Agency, Angop, that the discussion of the General State Accounts in Parliament “represents a historic milestone for Angola’s finances, consolidating the good practices of presenting accounting reports and making known the outcomes of governance and strengthening the principle of transparency in the use of public funds.”

Similarly, current Finance Minister Armando Manuel said in a speech on October 3 that the discussion and approval of the General State Accounts was “an ideal opportunity to demonstrate publicly the good and regular use of resources, in accordance with the relevant laws, regulations and norms, as well showing the outcomes.”

The ‘massacre’ of the Attorney-General’s Office

To illustrate how important the budget implementation reports are, Maka Angola has gathered some of the data and concerns that appear in the report submitted by the Attorney-General’s Office. The report notes that some of the Provincial Attorney-General’s Offices are granted by the Finance Ministry a monthly budget equivalent to US$ 5,000.

The Provincial Attorney-General’s Offices face difficulties at all levels, including in obtaining current consumables and current specialised consumables, release warrants, warrants for the transfer of detainees, detention records, prisoners’ records and other items indispensable in the application of the law,” the Attorney-General’s Office complains in its report.

The report adds that “with the available budget, which expenditure levels have been the same for the last four years, it has not been possible to honour judges’ expenses.”

“It has not been possible to pay for health insurance, travel expenses, fuel, telephones, electricity or water for the public prosecutors,” the report indicates. The report notes that the same shortcomings were being repeated in 2012 since the budget had not been increased.

“We hope that in the 2013 budget the Executive or the Finance Ministry increases the budget, because to continue with such limit funds would be a real massacre,” the report concludes.

It appears that the MPLA’s 2012 election campaign slogan “More Growth for Better Distribution” does not even apply to such critical institutions as the Attorney-General’s Office.

A narrative of deceit

By approving the General State Accounts without any reports to account for more than 70 per cent of budgeted spending, President Dos Santos is once again ruling by smoke and mirrors.

In his State of the Nation speech in the National Assembly on October 15, he took the chance to deflect attention away from his failure, as head of government, to be accountable. He unearthed a phoney nationalism by lashing out against Portugal, and suggested that any Angolan could acquire capital in the most primitive way possible, by looting.

The vote on the 2011 General State Accounts is one year and four months late, according to the provisions of the Budget Law, which states that the accounts must be approved by June 30 of the following year.

What is worse, the President managed to disguise his incompetence and his stubborn insistence on running the country as if it were his own private backyard. As head of government he is unable to meet the minimum legal requirements of transparency that are incumbent upon him. As head of state he insists on subordinating state affairs to his personal whims.