Minister of Interior Protects the Corrupt

A recent Angolan government report uncovered a network of corruption within the Office for Immigration and Foreigners (known by its Portuguese acronym SME), such as issuing illegal work visas to the value of over US$90 million, not a cent of which entered state coffers. Having seen the report, the Minister of Interior, Ângelo de Barros Veiga Tavares, took disciplinary action against those responsible. Yet the national director and the deputy national director of SME, as well as other key players in the corrupt scheme, have not lost their jobs, and so far, no legal proceedings have been initiated.



An audit undertaken by the Ministry of Interior, beginning on November 6, 2013, revealed that a network of 14 people, led by the national director of SME, José Paulino da Silva, illegally issued over 14,000 work visas in just one year. According to the report, the network was charging between US$5,000 and US$15,000 per visa. Conservative estimates calculate that the corrupt scheme, previously described in Maka Angola, will have netted over US$90 million in illegal earnings for those involved in the scheme.





The audit further discovered that, between October 2012 and October 2013, 391 residency permits were illegally granted, “mainly to Portuguese (181) and Brazilian (34) nationals”. The report indicates that, during that period, the SME informed the relevant ministry that it had issued 686 residency permits.





Elsewhere, inspectors confirmed that “the Department of Refugee Services (DRS) has been issuing receipts valid for a period of 180 days, with running extensions, to illegal aliens as if they were asylum seekers…” Illegal aliens have paid between 30,000 and 100,000 kwanzas (US$300 to US$1,000) to this effect. As evidence of this, inspectors noted that, on November 5, 2013, DRS employees made irregular entries in the database, adding the names of 132 supposed asylum seekers from various countries, especially Guinea.





On February 11 past, the minister of Interior, Ângelo de Barros Veiga Tavares, imposed an unusual and unspecified fine of 45 days on the national director of the SME, José Paulino da Silva, for the crime of illegally issuing work visas. According to the ministerial dispatch (01519/GAB.DIR.MININT/2014), “the disciplinary action of a fine is imposed on you [Mr da Silva] for the fact of having, among other irregularities, authorised the granting of work visas without the consent of the Minister of the Interior, and for not having supervised the irregular activity of your employees, that of inputting incomplete applications onto the computer system.”





The national deputy director of the SME, Eduardo de Sousa Santos, was sanctioned with “disciplinary action in the form of a registered citation for the fact of having authorised the granting of work visas without the competent consent of the Minister of Interior and for not having observed the legal requirements for issuing passports to foreign nationals”.





The minister evidently thought this was fit punishment for two high-ranking officials, who were “directly involved and accountable for irregularities noticed in inputting applications on the computer system with the consequent granting of work visas without observation of the legal requirements”.





The head of the Department of Foreign Nationals of the SME, Gilberto Teixeira Manuel, was demoted for a period of 18 months. The minister does not specify the kind of demotion. However, Maka Angola found out that the said officer remains on the same job, and with the same rank and benefits.





In turn, the head of the Department of Documentation, Registration and Records, Teixeira da Silva Adão, was only demoted for 90 days. Similarly, the minister does not specify the terms of the demotion, and the transgressor remains in office.





A “verbal warning” from the minister was enough of a sanction for 13 employees who participated in “illegally processing and inputting irregular applications onto the computer system, resulting in work visas being granted without due observation of the legal dispositions to that effect, regardless of the fact that they had been instructed to do so by their superiors”.





Among these employees are the heads of the departments of Work Visas and Administration, respectively Simão José N’gola and Cordeiro João. Also included are the coordinators of the Work Visa Delivery Office, Gaspar José Alexandre, and of the Department of Immigration Resources, Flávia Conceição Dias Vigário. Teresa Ermelinda Furtado Pires and Emanuela André João Luís Sebastião, respectively the secretaries of the national director of the SME and his deputy, were also given a telling-off by the minister. The list also includes the assistants to the national director of the SME and his deputy, [Nelson Conceição] and Francisco José and Carlos Aleixo.





No legal procedures





The inspection report, certified by the minister, is clear in affirming the illegality of the actions taken by the referred officials.





According to the document:
“There are irregularities within the domains of reception, legal processing, granting and delivery of work visas, in violation of the legal precepts contained in Law 2/07, the Law on Foreign Nationals in the Republic of Angola, which determines that work visas are granted through Angolan diplomatic and consular missions”.





Maka Angola contacted the lawyer Afonso Mbinda for a legal opinion on the situation. The lawyer believes the corruption scheme in operation within the SME “poses a threat to the internal security of the state and also to national sovereignty”.





“The Minister of the Interior should not turn a blind eye or try to play down the scandal, because crimes are being committed”, says Afonso Mbinda.





In the lawyer’s opinion, the minister ought to have immediately requested that the competent legal authorities, such as the Attorney General’s office, open a criminal procedure against those employees.





“Does the minister actually support what his employees are doing?”, asks the lawyer.





Afonso Mbinda also states that the decision taken by the minister to fine the national director of the SME is illegal: “Where administrative acts are concerned, it is up to the courts to apply fines”. By deciding on the sentence himself, minister Veiga Tavares “is taking justice into his own hands, and committing the crime of abuse of power”, he concludes.





On December 30 last year, during the end of year ceremony, the minister of the Interior promised to combat corruption in the SME. On that occasion, the minister admitted that, in spite of the audit that he had commissioned, “irregularities are still happening within the immigration service, particularly with regard to work visas and residency permits”.





In an analogy with football rules, the minister commented that “some (teams) have lots of yellow cards and others are playing with injuries, a situation that certainly requires some substitutions to be made to the squads to better address the demands of the moment and to give direct red cards to those committing heavy fouls…”.





Yet Minister Veiga Tavares already had the results of the audit on December 4, weeks before he made those comments.





The report describes acts of corruption, insubordination, mismanagement of funds and incompetence within the head office of the SME.





In spite of the abundance of proof and evidence, the minister of the Interior practically gave a vote of confidence to senior staff at the SME. The red card threat was merely lip service to a speech given by president José Eduardo dos Santos in 2009, on the then new government policy of zero tolerance on corruption.





From then until now, large scale corruption has been the driving force of government policy, and the key element uniting leaders, who support and protect one another in looting the country’s resources.