January 18, 2012

Government denies billions missing from public funds

Government has denied that $32 billion had gone missing from public funds, after the International Monetary Fund last month raised a flag over a discrepancy in the national books. The IMF said in December that an unexplained gap of $32 billion had emerged in the government's accounts from 2007 to 2010 -- equivalent to 25 percent of Angola's gross domestic product. But the government denied that the money was missing, saying the discrepancy resulted from "oil revenue being inadequately recorded, especially revenue of (state oil company) Sonangol... which is not fully recorded in the national accounts."
The statement, reported in the government mouthpiece Jornal de Angola newspaper, said that authorities were working with the IMF to analyse fiscal, monetary, foreign exchange and balance of payment data to reconcile the discrepancy. "The speculation and accusations of alleged misuse of public funds by the executive is part of the usual campaigns (by some media) that desperately attempt to discredit Angola's leaders and institutions," it said.

Human Rights Watch has repeatedly called on Angola to publicly disclose its efforts to trace the money. "We are aware that Angola's government is working to improve accounting practices, including those of Sonangol," Arvind Ganesan, the group's business and human rights director, said in a letter sent to the finance ministry. "Nevertheless, a gap in government accounts of this magnitude -- equivalent to one-quarter of Angola's gross domestic product (GDP) -- is astonishing and requires an immediate explanation."
Angola has so far received $1.2 billion under an IMF programme extended in 2009 to help plug liquidity gaps following a fall in the price of oil, the country's main export. Sonangol, sometimes described as a parallel structure of government, holds the concessions for Angola's vast oil blocks, is in charge of downstream distribution and has extensive overseas and domestic investment portfolios. It also runs its own airline, manages government housing and industrial programmes, and through joint ventures with Chinese companies is involved in negotiating oil-backed loans for the government. (RNW)

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