Angolan Parliament splashes over $43 million on BMWs

The Angolan ruling party, the MPLA, has over the last two years been repeating its promise to keep a watch on the administration, the management of public resources and the well being of Angolans. This article compares the promises with the reality, and shows how the members of parliament have been serving their own interests rather than the interests of the people they supposedly represent. On 16 June 2010, the National Assembly renegotiated a loan contract with the Banco do Comércio e Indústria (BCI) worth 3.21 billion kwanzas (equivalent to 35.7 million US dollars) for the purchase of 210 cars, the 2010 model of the BMW 535i series. These vehicles, valued at $168.9 thousand each, are for parliamentarians’ use on official business and are to be delivered by the end of the year only. The current budget for 2010, for the acquisition of vehicles for parliamentarians, officials and personnel of […]

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The Angolan Presidency: the Epicentre of Corruption

This report shows how the Presidency of the Republic of Angola has become the site of shady business deals, a fact that has consequences for citizens’ freedom and development, as well as for the country’s political and economic stability. The text responds President José Eduardo dos Santos’s call, on 21 November 2009, for a zero tolerance policy against corruption. For the sake of clarity, this investigation limits itself to a small demonstration of the business practices employed by the minister of State and head of the Military Bureau (Casa Militar) in the Presidency, General Manuel Hélder Vieira Dias Júnior “Kopelipa”. This is the man responsible for co-ordinating the defence and security sectors of the state. General Kopelipa is one of the triumvirate that today dominates Angola’s political economy, along with General Leopoldino Fragoso do Nascimento “Dino”, the presidency’s head of telecommunications, and Manuel Vicente, the chairman and CEO of the […]

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President’s Three Henchmen Lead the Plunder of State Assets

In his latest report, “The Angolan Presidency: The Epicentre of Corruption”, Angolan journalist and human rights activist Rafael Marques de Morais focuses on the illicit business links of a powerful triumvirate of officials close to President José Eduardo dos Santos. These officials are the head of the Military Bureau of the Presidency, the head of Telecommunications at the Presidency, and the CEO and chair of national oil company Sonangol, respectively General Manuel Hélder Vieira Dias Júnior “Kopelipa”, General Leopoldino Fragoso do Nascimento, and Manuel Vicente. “Their dealings acknowledge no distinction between public and private affairs, and this has allowed them to channel millions of dollars worth of state assets into their own private businesses,” Marques de Morais says. One of the tools used by these officials for their private operations, according to the report, is the power and the international reputation of Sonangol as well as their influence on the […]

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The Self-Dealings of Sonangol’s CEO

On 20 May 2002, the chairman of the board and CEO of Sonangol, Manuel Vicente, went into partnership with Grinaker LTA International Holdings, a South African company, the Banco Africano de Investimentos (BAI), and Mário Palhares in setting up Grinaker LTA Angola – Civil Construction and Public Works. Each partner took an equal 25 percent shareholding. A few months after it was set up, Grinaker LTA Angola – Civil Construction and Public Works in partnership with the Portuguese construction company Soares da Costa, got the contract for the new Luanda headquarters of the Angolan national oil company, Sonangol: a contract worth US $83.5 million. Work started in June 2003, and the 21-storey building was opened early in 2008. The same partnership of Grinaker LTA Angola and Soares da Costa won the contract in 2006 to build the headquarters of Sonangol Exploration and Production (P&P), the operational subsidiary of the Sonangol […]

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When Corruption in Angola is Easier Than in Nigeria

It is an honor for me to be here. I thank Ambassador Lyman and the Council on Foreign Relations for the opportunity to address you this morning. During our civil wars, the government of Angola consistently pointed to corruption as the second major destructive force in the country after the civil war.  Ironically, in times of peace, corruption has become the most defining issue in governing the nation.  It is a common part of business and government relationships. It has taken root throughout our social fabric. It is so pervasive that by the end of 2009 President José Eduardo dos Santos declared a zero tolerance policy against the scourge – a sinister attempt to deflect attention to the problem and to appease his detractors. Since October last year, I set up a website [www.makaangola.org] to monitor corruption in government in the context of the country’s legal framework, and in order […]

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Manuel Vicente’s Raid on Sonangol

In 2008, Manuel Vicente, the chairman of the board and director general of the Angolan state oil company, Sonangol, restructured the company’s main subsidiaries to his personal benefit. The same year, petroleum exports exceeded $62 billion, according to the World Bank: 97.7% of Angola’s exports. These figures demonstrate the crucial role of Sonangol in the country’s political economy, as the only Angolan concession-holder in the industry. Manuel Vicente did a business deal with himself when he illegally transferred a percentage of Sonangol Holding into his own name, thus making himself a formal (private) shareholder in almost all the multi-million dollar deals of a state-owned business. This move by Sonangol’s top manager must first be put into context in the light of current legislation and the MPLA’s rhetoric on the supposed zero tolerance policy towards corruption. On 30 March 2010, the President of the Republic, José Eduardo dos Santos, signed into […]

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Foul Play: Corruption and the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations

On 31 January 2010, Egypt emerged the victor in the Africa Cup of Nations, for the seventh time. Celebrations erupted in Cairo, while in Angola, which organised and hosted the championship, the final marked the return to reality. The Angolan government announced that is has spent $600 million on building four stadiums. The 11 de Novembro Stadium, in Luanda, with a capacity of 50 000, was budgeted at $227 million. In a country where the government rules through corruption and disrespect for the law, public works projects invariably involve shady institutional decisions regarding state contracts, to the primary benefit of political leaders. In between the football matches I took the time to investigate the points at which corruption and influence peddling could potentially occur in the process of organising the Cup of Nations. The first case that I am reporting concerns the inspection contract for the construction of the Luanda […]

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UNICER: Brewing corruption in Angola

In previous investigations I examined how members of the Angolan government went into partnership with the multinationals Castel Group and SABMiller in order to gain control of the drinks market in the country. This article looks at the case of UNICER, the main beverage manufacturer in Portugal. The multinationals in the drinks sector have developed a keen interest in the Angolan market, which is the third biggest beer consumer in Africa. Foreign investors seeking a way into Angolan markets need to follow two fundamental rules. The first involves setting up business partnerships with powerful figures in the regime; the second involves ignoring the relevant legislation, relying on the impunity of government leaders. UNICER’s business partners are the current Ministers of Industry and of Petroleum, respectively Joaquim David and José Maria Botelho de Vasconcelos, as well as the Governor of Benguela Province, General Armando da Cruz Neto and the former President […]

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MPLA, Corporation

During the ruling MPLA’s Central Committee meeting in Luanda, in November 2009, President José Eduardo dos Santos defined his challenges facing his party in terms of three fundamental questions: keeping watch on government, the irresponsibility of government leaders, and fighting corruption with a policy of zero tolerance. In this investigation I deal with the transfer of state assets to the MPLA’s private businesses through a company called GEFI (Sociedade de Gestão e Participações Financeiras / Management and Business Participation Company), and the consequences of its involvement in such money-making activities. In order to make clear the gap between the leadership’s words and its deeds, I will analyse those three main questions that Dos Santos, both President of the Republic and leader of the MPLA, put forward during his speech when he opened the party Central Committee meeting on 29 November 2009. Download the full text here.

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The business dealings of Angolan Members of Parliament

It has become common practice for Angolan Members of Parliament to set up commercial companies with members of the government and with foreign investors for personal gain, in the same way that they have done with state contracts. This practice potentially creates situations that prevent them from conducting their duties as parliamentarians, as well as conflicts of interest and influence peddling. In short, it risks making corruption an institution inside parliament. On 24 December 2008 the Chairperson of the National Assembly, Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos, promised during the end-of-year celebrations that members of parliament would play a role in monitoring the government’s actions, as a contribution to good governance and transparency in the country. While the country awaits the result of such a promise, this article reveals a reality that calls for greater attention and monitoring by the Chairperson of the National Assembly and by society at large. […]

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