* IMF approves final loan tranche to Angola
* Rights groups urged IMF to block due to "missing funds"
* Oct IMF report asked gov't to explain $32 bln discrepancy
(Recasts with IMF decision)
By Shrikesh Laxmidas
LUANDA, March 28 The International Monetary Fund
on Wednesday approved the release of a final loan disbursement
to Angola under the country's $1.4 billion loan agreement made
The IMF said it would immediately disburse $132.9 million to
Angolan authorities and waived performance targets linked to
international reserves and central bank credit.
Earlier, rights groups wrote to IMF Managing Director
Christine Lagarde urging the IMF's executive board to withhold
the final tranche until the Angolan government improved
transparency on how it uses public funds. They also urged the
government explain a $32 billion discrepancy in public funds
thought to be linked to the state oil company, Sonangol.
Min Zhu, IMF deputy managing director, said Angola had taken
measures to improve its accountability in public spending and
oil profit transfers. With technical assistance from the IMF, he
said Angola was working on a fiscal framework to improve the
management of oil revenues.
"Looking ahead, the authorities recognise the need to
sustain the reform momentum, continue to improve governance and
transparency, and enhance the business environment to lay the
foundations for economic diversification and inclusive growth,"
Africa's second-largest oil producer after Nigeria, Angola
was forced to turn to the IMF for a loan in 2009 during a
balance of payments crisis caused by a slump in crude prices in
the second half of the previous year.
The IMF has mostly praised Angola's efforts during the
program, especially on monetary policy that has curbed
inflation, boosted foreign exchange reserves and kept the kwanza
A report published by the fund in October raised alarm,
saying it had identified a discrepancy of $32 billion in
government funds thought to be linked to Sonangol and spent or
transferred from 2007-10.
Angolan Finance Minister Carlos Alberto Lopes did not
comment on the issue when he spoke to reporters on Wednesday.
The Angolan government has denied the funds are missing and said
the discrepancy resulted from insufficient record keeping.
After the fund's review mission in January, the IMF said it
expects the government to be able to explain a large part of the
discrepancy as it relates to operations undertaken by Sonangol
for the government, financed out of oil revenues but not
recorded in budgetary accounts.
President Jose Eduardo dos Santos' government has long been
accused of mismanaging the country's oil revenues and doing too
little to fight widespread graft and poverty.
New-York based Human Rights Watch urged the government to
explain the missing funds, which it said should have been used
to benefit millions or Angolans.
"We firmly believe that disbursing the remaining funds ...
would send the message that the IMF is willing to provide
substantial financing to the government of Angola even though it
has not adequately accounted for tens of billions of dollars in
public funds," it said in the letter to Lagarde.
(Additional reporting by Lesley Wroughton in Washington.
Editing by Gary Crosse and Dan Grebler)