January 16, 2004

"Lost billions" report by Human Rights Watch rejected

The Government of Angola publicly denounced the resumption by the non-governmental organisation Human Rights Watch of accusations of corruption and mismanagement and of an alleged Government's insensibility toward the social drama affecting many Angolan families.

The Human rights Watch report has claimed that more than US $4 billion in state oil revenue had gone missing from 1997 to 2002, an amount equivalent to the amount the government spent on social programmes during that period. "While ordinary Angolans suffered through a profound humanitarian crisis, their government oversaw the suspicious disappearance of a truly colossal sum of money," said Arvind Ganesan, director of the Business and Human Rights program at Human Rights Watch revealed. Human Rights Watch said any further aid to Angola from the international community should be conditional on strict requirements for transparency in the government budget. Last year, the IMF sent a team to Angola to investigate reports that $900m of oil money had gone missing in 2001 alone. At the time, the Angolan Government insisted the shortfall was due to accounting problems.

According to the Angolan Government, however, there had never been any independent audit accounting which has cross-checked these accusations. Furthermore it informs that the first phase of the diagnosis study of the oil sector had already been published, that it provided an ample information about the financial flows related to oil and besides that, the fiscal accounts of the Angolan Government were submitted to the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) audit. The Angolan Government could therefore not be held accountable for estimates of its revenues based on non-credible sources. It also reminded that no international financial entities had to date cross-checked the accusations Angola had been accused of. Furthermore, the insufficiencies still registered in its statistical system, which were already being tackled, or the differences observed in the process of accounting the revenues of the oil sector, decurrent from the conversion of the national currency into dollars, in a scenario marked in the past by widespread instability and volatility of the national currency, could not serve as a scapegoat. The communiqué also recalls that it were the political and economic improvements attained in 2003 that had led to the admittance of Angola into the African Growth And Opportunity Act (AGOA), an instrument with which the US authorities incentive good governance in Africa and promote the reinforcement of cooperation between the United States and Africa.

Furthermore, Angola's Finance Minister Jose Pedro de Morais has affirmed that the Human Rights Watch can always, whenever it wants, have access to the data of the Angolan Government. (Angola Press Agency, Luanda / IRIN)

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