Repairing Angola’s Central Bank

In the wake of recent revelations of mismanagement and corruption at the Banco Nacional de Angola (BNA), its Governor, José de Lima Massano, took to the airwaves in an attempt to defend his reputation and that of the bank. It was all to no avail, because many high-ranking officials have taken to heart the new Angolan President’s strictures against corruption and are willing to blow the whistle, backing up their claims with documentary proof. It’s evidence that should prompt the Attorney-General’s office to open an investigation.

Maka Angola has been given a copy of the contract signed in 2013 for the rehabilitation of the central bank’s historic main building, signed by Massano during his first stint at BNA governor. As with other projects (like the much-derided Currency Museum), he hired the Angolan subsidiary of the Portuguese construction firm Somague to do the work.

Somague stands accused of routinely padding costs on state contracts. No surprise then that the budgeted US $11 million to refurbish the BNA building doubled along the way. Five years and US $22 million later, works are still continuing.

Interviewed on the state radio station, Rádio Nacional de Angola, Massano made no attempt to explain the overbilling and padding that made a US $10 million museum end up costing Angola more than US $80 million. He tried to absolve himself of responsibility by claiming that a committee at the bank had selected Somague and two partners for the works – but he gave no detail to back that up.

Massano also claimed that he was simply following in the footsteps of his predecessors in ensuring the building was well-maintained. Again, he avoided mentioning the cost of the welter of “minor adjustments” that he said were the reason the works had not yet finished.

The fact is Massano has a lot of explaining to do, in particular to President João Lourenço who entrusted him with a second term as Governor in the belief he was honourable and trustworthy.

For example, when he signed the contract with Somague in 2013 why did he insist on a confidentiality clause? Why was it so important to keep the information about the repairs and their cost, a secret?

Secondly, the contract omitted any mention of the scope and duration of the works, stating only that they will be considered complete after the contractor submits the work to final inspection.

Thirdly, why in January 2015 did Massano authorize an extra US $11.2 million for “complementary works” as per his Memorandum 01/ACS/15. On top of that, there have been a myriad of additions to the contract, which led the Property and Works Department (Departamento de Património e Serviços (DPS) to mischievously tag them as “coffee expenses”.

The BNA officials who justified these expenses are no longer in their jobs: former BNA administrator Costa e Silva and former DPS Director Madalena Disso, to whom Massano had entrusted oversight of the works. This happy pair inflated the building costs by millions by signing off on individual ‘additions’ of the contract.

Some of the expense authorizations seen by Maka Angola are for items that should be part of the original contract, such as replacing walls and suspended ceilings, rebuilding stairs and partitions, dismantling doors and door frames with corresponding masonry work, replacing water pipes and drains for an unspecified bathroom, replacing the vinyl countertop on a cupboard, installing a room divider, applying lacquer to the wooden doors, and of course preparations and clean-up. Each of these “extras” was alleged to have cost thousands, in many cases tens of thousands, of dollars. These alone added up to half a million dollars over a four year period.

For example, as soon as he signed the initial contract for the refurbishment of the BNA, Massano leased five nearby properties, including two entire floors of the Edifício Fénix for the affected departments, incurring rental costs of close to US $300,000 a month. That’s US $3.6 million dollars a year, for five years and counting. So far, the total rental cost is up toUS $18 million. And who were the landlords who benefited? One is a former BNA governor, Amadeu Maurício, who lent them a nearby property for the use of the BNA’s media office. The longer the works went on, the more money there was to be made all around. Sources tell us it’s no wonder Somague is in no hurry to leave the BNA building.

Grain by grain, dollar by dollar, pockets were filled – allegedly with the complicity of successive Bank of Angola governors. Between 2013 and 2018 José de Lima Massano, José Pedro de Morais and Valter Filipe – whether by omission or commission – have given their imprimatur to every over-run. Some of those who have worked most closely with them, now say it’s time they were held to account.


*Translated and edited by D. Quaresma dos Santos