By Rafael Marques de Morais
Angola’s vice-minister of Science and Technology, Dr Pedro Sebastião Teta, has been energetically promoting projects aimed at the modernisation of the country’s information technology infrastructure, particularly for use by the public sector. To this end he has created a series of private businesses for his own personal enrichment in the area that falls under his ministerial portfolio.
On 17 December 2007, the vice-minister set up the private company Torque IT in partnership with his wife, Mirela Virgínia Teta, and with the company Protic, owned by the Portuguese-Angolan Eurico Alves Gomes. Dr and Mrs Teta hold 80 percent of the shares, while Protic holds the remaining 20 percent. However, just over a month earlier, on 13 November 2007, Dr Teta in his capacity as vice-minister had approved Torque IT’s accreditation with the National Information Technology Commission (CNTI), which he co-ordinates. In other words, the company was accredited to do business with the Angolan state a month before it legally existed.
Torque IT’s own documentation indicates that the company began to operate only in March 2009. Yet on 20 August 2008 Torque IT charged CNTI $150,000 (invoice 001) for training courses in e-mail software, which the company says it taught on behalf of state institutions. These courses were meant to teach civil servants how to use Microsoft Office Outlook at intermediate level.
However, two months later on 20 October, Torque IT issued another invoice to CNTI with the same number, 001, again for $150,000, but this time for 500 intermediate user courses in the spreadsheet software Microsoft Office Excel. Invoice number 002, also dated 20 October, charged a further $150,000 for another 500 intermediate user courses in Microsoft Office Excel. Then on 18 December invoice number 003 was issued to demand payment of $150,000 for 500 courses in Microsoft Word. Thus before Torque IT had begun operating, it had received a total of US$600,000 in payments supposedly for the training of 500 people in Excel, Outlook and Word. The company did not deliver the courses because it only started operating in March 2009, as it publicly acknowledges on its website.
Torque IT had a zero balance in its account 4062839731001, until it received the first payments from CNTI. A series of bank statements demonstrated that, until 2010 almost all of Torque IT revenues came from CNTI.
What is more, Torque IT’s invoices are inconsistent in regard to the cost of the courses in relation to the number of participants. Invoice six, dated 17 July 2009, charges a total of $109,606.63 to CNTI for four two-week intermediate courses (in Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook and Word) for 50 people.
At the time when these invoices were issued, the person in charge of CNTI’s finances was none other than Filomena Teta, sister of the vice-minister, who appointed her as director of the commission. During the course of 2009, the Minister of Telecommunications and Information Technology, José de Carvalho da Rocha, removed Filomena Teta from her post and replaced her with an official by the name of João Leão, whom he trusted. According to official correspondence, Mr Leão blocked the payment of two invoices (number 6 and number 11) submitted by Torque IT to a total value of US$132,788.76, as he suspected fraud and non-deliverance of the training courses.
On June 11 2010, the executive manager of Torque IT, Bruno da Silva, complained in a letter to CNTI, copied to minister José de Carvalho da Rocha, that the company had “’high costs, specifically for manuals, travel, trainers’ accommodation, daily meals for the trainees, etc and now has to bear these earlier costs and the financial costs of the debt’.
Close attention to Torque IT’s financial transactions tells a different story. Out of the total of $606,427.25 received from CNTI in 2008, Torque IT transferred a total of $400,000 to Dr and Mrs Teta’s accounts on February 3 and 5 2009. Eurico Alves Gomes, the other shareholder and director general of the company, ordered the transfer of $100,000 to his private account on February 5.
On April 8 2009, CNTI transferred more than $450,000 to Torque IT’s account. Out of this money, the company transferred a total of $126,000 in equal share to the Tetas’ and to Mr Gomes’s personal accounts. Torque IT transferred a further $100,000 to other private businesses owned by the Tetas and to Mr Gomes’s company Protic. In other words, more than half of the $450,000 payment ended up being for the exclusive benefit of the vice-minister, his wife and his business partner.
As for the cost of the courses, there is an invoice for $27,980.29, dated 16 October 2009, which Torque IT Angola paid to Torque IT South Africa with respect to the courses in question and other sundry expenses. Dr Teta’s company has a representation agreement with Torque IT South Africa, which is owned by the Kelly Group, South Africa’s main employment agency.
Vice-minister Pedro Sebastião Teta has broken Angolan law by committing an act of illicit enrichment, proscribed by Article 25, 1, j, of the Law on Public Probity, by incorporating money belonging to the public institution that he directed, into his private finances.
Ironically, the President of the republic and the Attorney General of have publically expressed regret over the lack of proof regarding alleged acts of corruption involving senior government officials. Citizens ought to congratulate Dr Teta, a renowned computer expert, for robbing state coffers in such a blatant manner, and for the tacit complicity of his boss, the President.
Rafael Marques de Morais is an Angolan journalist and writer with a special interest in Angola’s political economy and human rights. In 2000 he won the distinguished Percy Qoboza Award for Outstanding Courage from the National Association of Black Journalists (US). In 2006, he received the Civil Courage Prize, from the Train Foundation (US) for his human rights activities.