Breaking Alert: Former finance minister signed government loan guarantees that are suspected

secret-loans_mozambique

The independent website @Verdade has confirmed that the person who signed the government guarantees for over US$2billion-worth of loans for the quasi-public companies Ematum, Proindicus and MAM in 2013 and 2014 was the then finance minister, Manuel Chang.

@Verdade has obtained copies of three of these guarantees, and – as long suspected – they bear Chang’s signature. Two of them date from 28 February and 30 August 2013, and guarantee loans granted by Credit Suisse, through its London branch. The third, dated 20 May 2014, guarantees a loan from the Russian bank VTB.

One of the clauses in these guarantees states that “the guarantor (i.e. the Mozambican government) is complying in all aspects with its obligations to the IMF and the World Bank”.

But in fact the IMF did not know about the loans to Proindicus and MAM, and was thus not informed about the true extent of Mozambique’s foreign debt. This was no small matter, since between them the guarantees for the Ematum, Proindicus and MAM loans, as of the end of 2015, amounted to 20% of the foreign debt.

The IMF regards it as a basic duty of its member countries to keep it fully informed of their true macro-economic situation, but it was only in April 2016, through press reports, that the Proindicus and MAM loans became public knowledge (the Ematum loan was not hidden, since it involved the public issuing of bonds in Europe).

The IMF reacted by suspending its programme with Mozambique, including the second instalment of a US$283-million loan from the Fund’s Standby Credit Facility (SCF).

A further clause in the guarantees stated that the provision of the guarantees was in accordance with the applicable Mozambican laws and that the Ministry of Finance had been authorized to sign the guarantees.

But in fact the guarantees violated the 2013 and 2014 Budget Laws. Every year the Budget Laws contains a clause that limits the amount of lending which the government can guarantee. In the 2013 law that limit was the equivalent of US$6.5-million. In the 2014 Budget Laws the limit was dramatically increased to the equivalent of US$515-million. But this came nowhere near the amount guaranteed, which was more than US$2billion.

As for authorization, the National Assembly certainly did not authorize Chang to sign the guarantees. Most members of the Assembly were unaware of Proindicus and MAM until this year. The Banco de Moçambique was also kept in the dark – in May, the then governor of the central bank, Ernesto Gove, declared that he had never heard of Proindicus.

The Assembly has established a Commission of Inquiry which is looking into the loans and guarantees. Chang appeared before this Commission on Tuesday 11 October. These hearings are being held behind closed doors.

The Attorney-General’s Office is also investigating, and has questioned Chang. In July, the spokesperson for the Attorney-General’s Office, Taibo Mucobora, announced publicly that the investigators had found “violation of budgetary legality concerning failure to respect the limits for guarantees and failure to observe legal procedures”.

This, Mucobora said, means that the crime of abuse of office, or abuse of position, had been committed.

Source: Agencia de Informacao de Moçambique/@Verdade

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