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'In Angola we have never been asked for bribes'
The BBC's Greg Morsbach interview with Shawn McCormick, policy adviser at BP
 real 28k

Tuesday, 13 February, 2001, 17:59 GMT
BP's Angolan oil interest
Oil worker looking out over Gulf of Guinea
Angola has some of the biggest oil reserves in the world
The oil giant BP, which has reported record profits from its operations around the world, will soon be revealing what payments it makes to the government of war-torn Angola in exchange for operating there.

BP will be the first oil company to publish any figures of this kind.

It follows pressure from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) critical of the secrecy surrounding foreign investment in the war-torn region.

BP has sent a letter to the London-based NGO Global Witness promising to publish details annually of net production and the payments made to the Angolan government in exchange for operating in the country.

Chief Executive Sir John Brown announcing full year results
Announcing results could soon be much more interesting
"We are very pleased that BP have done it," said Simon Taylor, Director of Global Witness.

"BP think they have worked out how they can legally publish, without breaching commercial confidentiality, and we will be holding them to their commitment."

Fueling the war?

NGOs say oil firms operating in Angola enrich undemocratic and corrupt governments, fuel civil wars, pollute the environment and end up doing more harm than good - charges the oil giants deny.

Angola's government has been locked in a civil war for 25 years and has been criticised by NGOs over the opaque finances linking foreign arms dealers, the government, the central bank and the state oil company.

Getting into Angola

BP has worked hard over the years to establish a foothold in Angola's rich oilfields.

Together with France's TotalFinaElf, BP has made an estimated $2.5bn (1.7bn) investment to open up the Girassol deepwater reserves in the Gulf of Guinea, off Angola. It expects to start production later this year.

Angolan army on patrol
The government uses oil revenues to equip its army
The transparency project was initiated by BP two years ago and complements an International Monetary Fund (IMF) economic reform programme that is building up a profile of Angola's illicit oil sector.

In January the IMF engaged accountants KPMG to audit payments made by oil companies against the Angolan government's budget.

KPMG were unable to provide any further information to the BBC other than to confirm they were working on the project.

French oil company TotalFinaElf said it had turned over "precise technical and financial information" for the audit. Royal Dutch/Shell said it was still considering how to respond.

BP said it was helping the Angolan government with the reform of its accounts.

It has placed a World Bank economist inside the company to assist the process and recruited Angola's ambassador to the UN, Jose Patricio as a vice-president.

Questions about payments

Angola in 1999
Pumped 800 000 barrels of crude per day
Oil output higher than Kuwait
Earned $900m for oil rights
Spent $450m on weapons
Other $450m not recorded in budget
"BP has found that during our history in Angola we have never been asked for bribes. No-one's ever put a brown envelope in front of us and told us to fill it," said Shawn McCormick, policy adviser at BP.

In January, BP gave evidence to the UK's Commons International Development Select Committee that was investigating international corruption.

The group vice-president and general auditor, Reg Hinckley, admitted that the company had to make "facilitating payments" in some countries to prevent delays but that they were not to give a competitive edge. BP did not indicate if Angola was one of those countries.


BP will never offer, solicit nor accept a bribe

Reg Hinckley, BP Group Vice-President
Under international law some types of small payments to officials are not illegal, although companies have to clearly identify them in their accounts.

"BP will never offer, solicit nor accept a bribe," Mr Hinckley told the committee and said all payments by BP were transparent.

In October last year, the UK Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain hosted a meeting between with the world's major oil companies, including BP, Shell, ExxonMobil and Chevron, and Non-Governmental Organisations to publish payment details about Angola.

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See also:

13 Feb 01 | Business
BP defends record 9.75bn profit
12 Oct 00 | Africa
Angola war 'threatens region'
24 Jul 00 | Business
BP goes green
29 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Angola
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