Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos urged his party to implement a zero tolerance policy on government corruption, as Africa’s biggest oil producer struggles to improve its image abroad.
Dos Santos, who has ruled the African nation for more than 30 years, said members of his MPLA party had so far been timid in supervising government spending, enabling some to commit fraud and squander public money.
“Irresponsible people, people of bad faith, have taken advantage of this circumstance to squander resources and to carry out illicit and even damaging and fraudulent acts of management,” dos Santos said in a speech to his party.
Angola’s government says it is trying hard to increase transparency by publishing its budget and oil revenues online, but it recently lost ground in a Transparency International Index and now ranks among the world’s 18 most corrupt nations.
“Transparency in acts of management and good government are a front where there is still a lot of work to be done. The best thing is to agree to a sort of zero tolerance after the sixth congress,” dos Santos said.
The MPLA party will hold a national congress next month. It holds 82 percent of the seats in parliament after winning a landslide election last year.
Billions in oil revenues and loans from China to help rebuild infrastructure destroyed by a 27-year civil war have turned Angola into one of the world’s fastest growing economies.
But that has done little to improve the lives of ordinary Angolans, two-thirds of whom still live on less than $2 a day, according to the World Bank.
After the war ended in 2002, dos Santos said one of the biggest challenges Angola faced was ending corruption.
But rights groups say he and his inner circle have set a bad example and have urged the president to lead by example. Dos Santos denies any personal wrongdoing.
“There needs to be concrete action by the president and his inner circle to end corruption,” said Antonio Ventura, director of the Luanda-based Association for Justice, Peace and Democracy.
“Every one in Angola knows that when you are close to the president or the ruling party you can do big business,” he said.
The privately owned weekly newspaper Agora last week published a list of Angola’s 12 richest people which included dos Santos, his eldest daughter, several ministers and members of the ruling MPLA party at the top.
The paper’s managing editor Aguiar dos Santos, who is not related to the president, told Reuters that he compiled the list based on shareholdings of some members of Angola’s ruling party and other prominent national figures.
Greater transparency would also bolster Angola’s chances of receiving Western loans and placing debt with private investors abroad, as it seeks cash shore up its finances after the recent slump in oil prices.
The International Monetary Fund said last week it was likely to approve a loan, estimated at $1.3 billion. Angola is also seeking its first-ever credit rating as it tries to sell $4 billion in bonds to foreign investors in the first half of 2010.
Pic: President Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola