Research Paper: Combating Corruption in Angola

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[. . .] [footnoteRef:16] An analyst at the U.S. Naval War College characterizes Angola as “the sleeping giant where billions of dollars have disappeared and where government maintains deep distrust of and distance from the international community,”[footnoteRef:17] but the common denominator for all of the country’s woes remains tied to widespread corruption.[footnoteRef:18] [16: McFerson, p. 1532] [17: Richmond M. Lloyd (2007, Autumn). “Untapped: The Scramble for Africa's Oil.” Naval War College Review, vol. 60, no. 4, p. 142.] [18: Alex Vines (2013, April). “Crude Existence: Environment and the Politics of Oil in Northern Angola.” African Studies Review, vol. 56, no. 1, p. 197.]

In fact, in any type of “follow-the-money” analysis, corruption is inextricably associated with all of the problems facing Angola today. For instance, according to one international watchdog organization, “Corruption remains widespread in Angola due to a lack of checks and balances, insufficient institutional capacity and a culture of impunity.”[footnoteRef:19] The broad legal definition provided by Black’s Legal Dictionary states that corruption is “an act done with the intent to give some advantage inconsistent with official duty and the rights of others.”[footnoteRef:20] Applied to an Angolan context, the definition assumes a wide array of these types of illegal practices, affecting virtually all levels of Angolan society. For example, the GAN Anti-Corruption organization reports that, “Practices of nepotism, cronyism and patronage pervade procurement rendering the procurement process opaque and corrupt. The oil and mining sector in Angola are considered especially high risk areas for corruption.”[footnoteRef:21] [19: Angola Corruption Report (2016, August). GAN Anti-Corruption. [online] available: http://www.business-anti-corruption.com/country-profiles/angola, p. 1.] [20: Black’s Law Dictionary (1990). St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Co., p. 345.] [21: Angola Corruption Report, p. 1.]

Even though some of these illegal practices are highly localized and involve relatively small amounts of money (i.e., alcohol used to bribe Angolan border officials), other cases involve tens of millions and even billions of dollars that have been diverted through sophisticated criminal networks. These criminal networks are largely ignored by the government because many officials are involved, and a culture of acceptance of corruption pervades the country. In this regard, the analysts at GAN note that, “Clientelistic networks generally govern the way business is conducted in Angola with many Angolan companies functioning as front organizations for government officials whose integrity and accountability are frequently questioned by observers.”[footnoteRef:22] This is not to say, of course, that anti-corruption laws are not on Angola’s books. For example, according to Nadorff: [22: Angola Corruption Report, p. 2.]

Public Probity Law is Angola’s primary legislation regulating the behaviours of public officers, who are generally deemed to be ‘any person who exercises an authority, office, employment or function in a public entity’. Its most relevant provisions concern: principles relating to public service and proper conduct of public officers; prohibited acts; conflicts of interest; reporting requirements; and enforcement.[footnoteRef:23] [23: Norman Nadorff (2015, December 2). “Angola’s Probity Law: The will to combat corruption.” Journal of Energy and Business. [online] available: https://www.howwemadeitinafrica.com/angolas-probity-laws-the-will-to-combat-corruption/, p. 3.]

It is to say, however, that these laws are rarely if ever aggressively enforced. Indeed, as the analysts at GAN conclude, “Active and passive bribery, illicit enrichment and conflict of interest are criminalized by the Probity Law, but offences are rarely prosecuted. Gifts and facilitation payments are a common part of doing business in Angola.”[footnoteRef:24] [24: Angola Corruption Report (2016, August). G A N Anti-Corruption. [online] available: http://www.business-anti-corruption.com/country-profiles/angola, p. 1.]

Given this widespread culture of acceptance among Angolan politicians and businesspeople as well as by foreign investors and multinational partners, it would be reasonable to suggest that the true extent – and impact – of corruption remains unclear. In this regard, Calvin intimates that Angolan officials purposely provide incomplete or inaccurate accountings of state money and foreign investments, and vast sums of money simply vanish with no reasonable explanation. For instance, Calvin reports that, “Ordinary ineptitude and inefficiency make it difficult -- some would say deliberately difficult -- to assemble a true picture of the nation's finances. It is hard to know how much is lost to corruption and how much is simply lost [but] corruption is at the core of the country's economic problems.” [footnoteRef:25] [25: Henri E. Calvin (2009, November 30). IMF skewers corruption in Angola. The New York Times. [online] available: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/11/30/world/imf-skewers-corruption-in-angola.html, p. 2.]

It is clear, however, that corruption has a profoundly negative effect on the average Angolan citizen. With a majority of Angolans subsisting on less than $1 per day and one of the world’s highest infant mortality rates, the diversion of huge sums of state money represents a crime of truly momentous proportions. Writing in African Business, Ford emphasizes that, “In terms of oil, Angola is one of the world's richest countries. All the big oil companies have a presence there, and Angola may surpass Saudi Arabia as the world's foremost oil producer.”[footnoteRef:26] While the citizens of many oil-rich countries in the Middle East enjoy some of the world’s highest standards of living, the same does not hold true for many resource-rich African nations today. As Ford points out: [26: Neil Ford (2017, March). “Lower Rates of Growth Forecast for Angola: A Big Jump in Oil Prices Would Fix Angola's Government Finances, but This Looks Unlikely at Present.” African Business, no. 439, p. 48.]

Yet today, hundreds of thousands are starving; a child dies every 3 minutes and three quarters of Angola's population lives on less than a dollar a day. But by rights, these people should be prospering: under the Angolan constitution, they own the valuable reserves that are making the multinationals ever richer.[footnoteRef:27] [27: Andrew Brackenbury (2009, February). “Rich Land, Poor Land: Experts Are Predicting That Angola May Soon Overtake Saudi Arabia as the World's Principal Oil Producer. So Why, Asks Andrew Brackenbury, Are Its People Dying of Hunger?” Geographical, vol. 75, no. 2, p. 37.]

These empirical observations suggest that the source of the Angolan paradox is readily apparent, with greed fueling these practices at every level of government and business.[footnoteRef:28] Some of the more damaging – and revealing -- evidence to emerge from investigations by the IMF include the enormous sums of money being paid by multinational oil conglomerates that find its way into the pockets of corrupt government officials. For example, Calvin notes that, “The huge bonus payments that oil companies must pay to secure drilling rights for Angola's offshore reserves have been a particular concern of critics.” [footnoteRef:29] [28: Neil, p. 49.] [29: Calvin, p. 2.]

A report published by the IMF concerning the extent of corruption in Angola suggests that the causes of the Angolan paradox are not all that mysterious after all. According to the IMF’s report, “Rarely is the expenditure of bonus money detailed in fiscal accounts, and even then, the amounts received are sometimes grossly underreported.” As a salient example, the IMF cited the $285 million in bonus payments made by companies to secure rights to Angola’s deep-sea oil fields reported by Angola’s government, but the oil companies claim nearly $400 million in bonus payments were made, which means that more than $100 million was diverted into the chasm of corruption that is Angola today.[footnoteRef:30] [30: Calvin, p. 2.]

As noted above, the true extent of corruption in Angola remains unclear, but even the most damning estimates may be grossly underestimating the amounts of money that are involved. It is possible, though, to gain some indication of the enormity of these monies by reviewing other instances that have come to light through investigations by international watchdog agencies and admissions by multinational corporations themselves. A Brazilian conglomerate, Odebrecht, for example, admitted bribing Angolan governmental officials to the tune of $50 million for various contracts during a trial in New York in December 2008 for these criminal practices.

Nevertheless, the admission in open court was ignored by Angolan governmental officials despite the conglomerate’s chief executive officer being sentenced to prison for 19 years for bribery. Moreover, although the company admitted to engaging in widespread bribery in a number of African countries, Angola was the only African nation identified during its trial. One anti-corruption advocate responded to the Angolan government’s silence on this admission by stating, “The point is that there is no official interest in fighting corruption, or even pretending that there is an interest in fighting corruption. The Angolan judicial system wants this to go away because of the involvement of senior officials (emphasis added).”[footnoteRef:31] [31: Angola Silent despite Firm Admitting to Bribes. Contributors: Not available. Newspaper title: Cape Times (South Africa). Publication date: March 22, 2017. Page number: 19.]

With this level of involvement on the part of high-ranking government officials, it is little wonder that only superficial progress has been- - or can be – made in the Angolan context. As noted above, the few concrete examples of corruption that have been exposed only represent the tip of a very large monetary iceberg, and the sums may even run into the trillions of dollars. This kind of money, of course, would… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Combating Corruption in Angola.  (2017, August 8).  Retrieved March 26, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/combating-corruption-angola/9878466

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"Combating Corruption in Angola."  8 August 2017.  Web.  26 March 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/combating-corruption-angola/9878466>.

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"Combating Corruption in Angola."  Essaytown.com.  August 8, 2017.  Accessed March 26, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/combating-corruption-angola/9878466.