Audit Court Splashes Millions on Luxury for Boss

How did the President of Angola’s Court of Auditors manage to afford a home worth almost eight million US dollars? Allegedly by getting the State to pick up the bill. Whistle-blowers say Exalgina Gambôa should have the decency to step down while the Office of the Attorney-General of the Republic conducts a criminal investigation. This latest scandal makes a mockery of the Angolan government’s promise to fight corruption: it shows how the highest-ranking public officials – even those appointed to uphold the law – can abuse it with impunity by making use of their rank and privilege to divert state funds for private ends while still avoiding investigation and prosecution for corruption.For too many years Angola’s predatory political class has operated on the assumption that prestige positions in public service grants them the right to live in unparalleled luxury with all expenses charged to the state. The expectation of privileges and rewards far in excess of what may be merited was a hallmark of the profoundly corrupt Dos Santos Administration and continues to taint so many of those who in theory profess to believe in public service but in practice use their public role to enrich themselves.

Information has reached Maka Angola that the woman appointed as President of the Court of Auditors, Exalgina Gambôa (in the photo), is the latest public official to succumb to the temptations of the high life. The case has all the hallmarks of a classic example of misuse of public funds for unchallenged, exorbitant expenditure in perquisites and benefits for individual office holders – straight out of the playbook operated by the Dos Santos kleptocracy to buy the silence and loyalty of their accomplices at all levels of government.

The evidence that Exalgina Gambôa treated the Court’s reserve fund as her private piggy bank is overwhelming. Judge Gambôa repeatedly authorized payments from the reserve to cover nearly four million US dollars[1] in redecoration and furnishing expenses for her residence alone. The records show that Judge Gambôa’s residence, a detached property in the exclusive luxury Malunga Condominium development in Luanda’s Talatona district, was purchased by the Angolan government in 2020 for 3.5 million US dollars. That immediately raises the question as to why government funds should be used at all to purchase private residences for public officials.

A typical floorplan for the 41 generously sized luxury homes constructed in the Malunga Condominium shows four bedrooms (all with ensuite bathrooms), two reception rooms and a fully equipped chef’s kitchen, with integral laundry room and flex room totalling some 4800 square feet (450 sq mts). Also included on the lot were an in-ground swimming pool, an outdoor BBQ kitchen area, and parking for four vehicles.

Yet this ‘perquisite of office’ apparently was not good enough for Judge Gamboa. She determined that a luxury property of that size should be further enhanced by half-a-million US dollars’ worth of upgrades and correspondingly upmarket décor and furnishings. Especially if she didn’t have to pay for these enhancements herself.

Documentary evidence provided to Maka Angola shows that she dipped into the Audit Court’s reserve coffers to cover the costs. Judge Gambôa repeatedly authorised payments from the Audit Court’s private reserve accounts: a payment of 212,800,000 (half-a-million USD) to Sholin Construction[2] for “remodelling”; three payments to Annus Mirabilis Decoration[3] totalling 1,426,000,000 Kwanzas (3.3 million USD) and a further payment (for high-end furniture for personal use) to João Justino António’s JAV firm[4] for 199 million Kwanzas (461,000 US).

Thus a final audit of the amount spent on providing a luxury home for the President of the Court of Auditors ends up costing the Republic of Angola nearly eight million US dollars, more than double the original purchase price of the property.

Sources at the Court of Auditors have confirmed that since her appointment in 2018, Judge Gambôa has never authorized any institutional renovations other than for her own office.

What she did authorize (also from the Audit Court’s private reserve funds) was the acquisition of a luxury home for her deputy in Dalm Condominium in the Talatona neighbourhood; a snip at 189 million Kwanzas (437,000 USD)[5]. To be fair Exalgina spent six times that amount just on furniture for her own place… and in an extraordinary coincidence, somehow furniture obtained from JAV for this “lesser” residence for her deputy cost almost as much as it did for Exalgina’s place.

We spoke to Audit Court judges, including members who attended the plenary chaired by Judge Gambôa. Speaking off the record, or on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, they told Maka Angola that Exalgina Gambôa openly told the plenary that “the Court’s reserve coffers” were hers to dispose of as she saw fit.

A government source told us the Finance Ministry had rejected a budgetary request from Judge Gambôa for 2,000,000,000 (two-thousand-million kwanzas (=USD) to furnish her ‘official residence’ before she turned to her “private piggy bank”, i.e. the Audit Court’s reserve funds.

It appears to be a prima facie case of corruption for investigation by the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic, which should additionally demand an explanation for expenses incurred regarding a mysterious additional payment of 526 million kwanzas (1.217 million USD) authorized by Judge Gambôa from the Audit Court’s reserves to a real estate company named Urbanização Nova Vida in February 2021. What did this buy and for whom?

A source told us: “The Court of Auditors acquired homes for the advisory judges in Boavida Condominium[6] and we have no records at all of any property acquired on behalf of the Court from Nova Vida.”  However, Urbanização Nova Vida is a real estate project owned by a company named Imogestin, and the President of the Board of Directors of Imogestin is a man named Rui Cruz, who just happens to be Exalgina Gambôa’s ex-husband.

The Court of Auditors’ mission is to “audit the legality of the financial and administrative actions of the State and all public or private institutions as determined by the Law, to ensure the appropriate application of public resources for the benefit of Angolan citizens”.

We contacted the Court of Auditors to ask for an explanation of Judge Gambôa’s expenditure.  The official response, signed by Gonçalo Leitão, simply states that “Court expenditures are in accordance with the annual accounts drawn up and approved by the Court’s Plenary Body” citing diverse laws[7] as though these were sufficient authorization for untrammelled spending by the highest Court official. On reading the official response, our legal adviser described it as “a joke”.

How is it possible to reconcile the use of public funds for private ends by the Audit Court President as “the appropriate application of public resources”? And how can anyone have faith in the Audit Court’s ability to supervise the legality of any financial administration by the state if its top official is not called to account for their abuse of public funds?

[1] (at the current Kwanza to USD exchange rate)

[2] 212.8 million KZ to Construções Sholin Lda on August 5, 2021.

[3] (in three tranches paid on March 26, July 30 and December 17, 2021)

[4] (payment on July 30,2021)

[5] Paid in two instalments to the entrepreneur Amil Ali Bachu on April 26 and June 7, 2021

[6] Raising again the question of why government is purchasing private homes for public officials

[7] Law 13/10, Law 19/19 and Law 7/94.