Incompetence and Corruption Sinks Angola’s Development Bank

Angola’s state-owned banks, businesses and investment funds are all reportedly in trouble: either loss-making or on the brink of bankruptcy. The state oil giant, Sonangol, is floundering amid unpaid debts amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars; the crisis at the Credit and Savings Bank (the BPC, Banco de Poupança e Crédito) has led to a clean sweep of the board; and far from accumulating interest, the Angolan Sovereign Fund is losing hundreds of millions. The common denominator to their misfortunes is – according to the government – the disastrous plunge in oil prices. Not so, say economic analysts in Angolan and beyond. They say the drop in the price of oil simply uncovered factors that would send any business anywhere to the wall. The interruption to the flow of petrodollars made a continued cover-up of endemic corruption and incompetence impossible. All of a sudden their clandestine existence was revealed, […]

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Angolan Army Battles Trade in Stolen Guns

The Angolan authorities seem at a loss to know how to react to the discovery that more than seventy AK47 military rifles have gone missing from a security unit stationed at the Petrangol oil refinery. The shortfall was first discovered back in May at the São Pedro da Barra base in the Petrangol zone. A subsequent military investigation determined that the arms had been smuggled out one by one for sale to a private security firm. Yet, instead of facing a court martial, the man held responsible, Lieutenant Colonel Ugando Bravo, known as ‘TC Roger’, has simply been transferred to other duties. The ‘Economic Objective Protection Unit’(known by its Portuguese acronym, UPOE) was set up and stationed at the Petrangol oil refinery in Luanda in the wake of an act of sabotage by South African commandos in November 1981 which resulted in the partial destruction of the refinery. The security […]

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Diplomatic Immunity or Impunity?

Angolan diplomats may enjoy diplomatic immunity abroad – but apparently some interpret this to mean they can fiddle their expenses without any fear of punishment back home. From Brazil come reports of an Angolan diplomat siphoning off state funds for his own ends because because his family ties mean he believes himself to be exempt from any legal consequences. Consul General in Rio de Janeiro, Rosário Gustavo Ferreira de Ceita, 53, justifies his diversion of funds for personal ends while boasting that he can act as he sees fit because ‘Palucha’ (Ana Paula dos Santos, the Angolan President’s wife) is his cousin. He may be confusing diplomatic immunity with impunity. Just two years into the posting, Rosário de Ceita is relying on the Angolan state budget to ease a heavier family burden than usual – he is said to have acquired three ‘wives’ and a corresponding number of children. Angola […]

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Angolan Oil Greases a Trio of Palms

At a time of prolonged economic crisis, Angola has an interesting way of prioritizing who gets first dibs on its dwindling supply of foreign exchange. Angola’s President José Eduardo dos Santos recently told the central committee of his ruling MPLA (People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola) party that the government had not received any contribution from Sonangol (the national oil company) since the beginning of the year due to the sharp decline in oil price. He added: “the income Sonangol does derive is barely enough to pay its own and the State debts.” Dos Santos admitted that this was causing a foreign exchange crisis for the National Bank of Angola, the BNA, which was only able to muster approximately US $300 million per month. That comes from receivables from foreign oil companies working in Angola, who are required to exchange their national currencies into Angolan kwanzas to pay in-country […]

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Sonangol’s Billion Dollar Headache

The task facing Angola’s state oil company, Sonangol, as it adjusts to lower revenues during the slump in oil prices, is complicated by a stratospheric debt burden which gives little room for manoeuvre.  And yet the new administration is unexpectedly making repayment of one private debt a top priority. In spite of multiple pressing issues (including the root-and-branch restructuring of Sonangol) repayment of this particular debt has been fast-tracked by Sonangol’s new CEO, the President’s daughter Isabel dos Santos.   A source close to the Sonangol board has told Maka Angola it’s the reason why Sonangol has been seeking a loan of US $800 million from a bank based in Egypt, offering as surety its shares in the Millenium BCP division of Portugal’s largest private bank, the Commercial Bank of Portugal (BCP). The urgent repayment?  A one billion US dollar debt owed to Trafigura. This is the joint venture between the […]

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40 Years On… The Boys are Back

Shrugging off the legal challenges to her appointment as President of the Board of Director of Sonangol, the President’s daughter, Isabel dos Santos, has lost no time in showing how she means to restructure the state oil company.  Her first task has been to recruit 120 Portuguese staff to senior positions. The new recruits will join a further 50 consultants – also mostly Portuguese nationals – currently working as consultants and advisers to Isabel on behalf of the Boston Consulting Group and the Portuguese law firm Vieira de Almeida, who in effect are jointly running the Angolan state firm at this point. The arrival of the Portuguese contingent to take over at the Angolan state oil company raises some interesting points:  firstly, the total absence of any national or international recruitment campaign and the lack of any attempt at dialogue between the managers and workers at Sonangol points to the same lack […]

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Rescuing the Angolan Economy

President José Eduardo dos Santos admits Angola is running out of money but he has yet to outline any sort of rescue plan.  Is Angola teetering on the precipice of economic disaster?  Or is it already in the abyss? In spite of international entreaties to diversify the economy and reduce its dependence on imports, the MPLA government has so far failed to make meaningful changes to ensure self-sufficiency.   So if the national bank has run out of money to pay for imported goods, what is the alternative? How can the government guarantee a continued supply of food to the Angolan people?  Are they to starve? Can the President tell us where he expects to find the resources to avert calamity? With Angola already having to service billion dollar loans, the President may have run out of collateral. Clearly his generation of governing officials won’t have to bear the burden of […]

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Chevron’s Misplaced Endorsement of Nepotism in Angola

What must Chevron’s CEO John Watson be thinking as he sits in his office in San Ramon, California and ponders the future of his Angolan subsidiary, the Cabinda Gulf Oil Company Ltd (Cabgoc)? How much longer does he estimate that he needs to keep on the good side of José Eduardo dos Santos’s corrupt and kleptocratic MPLA government to ensure Cabgoc can continue to operate?  Is he hedging his bets?  Or is he staking Chevron’s African corporate future on the faint chance that the Dos Santos family and their acolytes will not be brought to justice for their crimes? While oil industry analysts around the globe were divided about the merit of the President’s nepotistic appointment of his daughter Isabel to head the restructured Angolan state oil company, Sonangol,  Watson’s man in Angola, the Cabgoc director John Baltz, was telling a US-Angola Chamber of Commerce conference that he was “optimistic” […]

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Angola Yellow Fever Funds Pay For Refuse Collection

Why was a sum of nearly US $200,000, allocated to fight the yellow fever epidemic in the Angolan oil-rich province of Cabinda, used instead to pay off a debt to a private refuse collection service? That’s the question being asked by confused Health Ministry officials in the capital, Luanda, after they were left dumbfounded by news from Cabinda that the special funds allocated to yellow fever were instead diverted by the newly-appointed city administrator to pay arrears. According to a source in the Provincial Government of Cabinda, this was one of the first steps taken by Arnaldo Tomás Puaty, who was only appointed to the position of municipal administrator on May 6 after previously working as an adviser to Cabinda’s Provincial Governor, Aldina da Lomba Catembo.  It’s only two months since the provincial governor announced a new household and business tax would be levied to help pay for refuse collection. […]

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President Dos Santos’ Web: Con After Con After Con

The Place There is a building under construction in Major Kanhangulo Street in the Angolan capital, Luanda, which stands as a prime example of how that country’s President manipulates the national treasury as though it were a private fund for the benefit of himself and his children. It’s called the Imob Business Tower and there is a paper trail that links it directly to President José Eduardo dos Santos and his family. On September 12, 2014 the President ordered the Finance Ministry to proceed to acquire the Imob Business Tower, then in the first phase of construction, for US $115.4 million.  This is documented as Presidential Order No. 182/14, to authorise a real estate transaction between the seller, a private company called Imob Angola – Empreendimentos Imobiliários Lda., and the purchaser, the Government of Angola. Construction of the 35-storey building, designed to be the tallest and slimmest building in the […]

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