MAPUTO, A team from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), led by Michel Lazare, an assistant director to the Fund’s public financial management division, has left Mozambique after a two-week visit without any promise of a new IMF programme for the country.

As in all recent IMF statements on Mozambique, it was clear that the resumption of normal relations depends on concluding the audit of the three security-related companies which took out loans totalling more than two billion US dollars from two European banks — Credit Suisse of Switzerland and VTB of Russia — in 2013 and 2014, but are now effectively bankrupt.

The loans were only possible because they were fully guaranteed by the previous Mozambican government, led by President Armando Guebuza. The government guarantees were illegal since they violated the ceiling on guarantees established in the 2013 and 2014 budget laws.

The government agreed to an independent audit of the three companies — Ematum (Mozambique Tuna Company), Proindicus and MAM (Mozambique Asset Management) — which was undertaken by Kroll Associates, reputedly the world’s foremost forensic auditing company.

However, the Kroll audit was undermined by the management of the companies who concealed information, thus making it impossible to ascertain what had happened to all the money.

In late June, the Attorney-General’s Office (PGR) published the executive summary of the Kroll audit report, which accused the management of Ematum, Proindicus and MAM of failing to co-operate and concealing information. The man who is the chairperson of all three companies, Antonio do Rosario, a senior officer in the State Intelligence and Security Service (SISE), openly boasted of refusing to hand over data, on the grounds of national security, and even of expelling the auditors from his office.

The main challenge in completing the audit, Kroll said, was the lack of information available from the Mozambique companies. Kroll spent a considerable amount of time requesting and liaising with representatives of the Mozambique companies to obtain information and documentation that was, in some case, either ultimately incomplete or not provided at all.

Since June there has been no sign of any attempt by the three companies, or by the PGR, to improve matters. Indeed the PGR has not even posted the full audit report on its website, even though it is readily available on the Internet.

Stonewalling has not worked with the IMF. An IMF statement issued on Thursday on the initial findings of Lazare’s team said regarding the follow up to the audit of Ematum, Proindicus and MAM companies, the mission reiterates the need to fill the information gaps in the audit report.

The mission added, however, that it took note of the Government’s recommendation to wait for the outcome of the ongoing investigations by the Prosecutor General Office. The government has used the PGR investigations as its excuse for inaction, since, under the separation of powers, the executive cannot interfere in criminal investigations.

Lazare’s mission had a radically different view of Mozambique’s economic prospects to that of the government. The government’s estimate for this year’s growth in GDP is 5.5 per cent, and it forecasts growth of 5.3 per cent in 2018. But the IMF claims that growth is continuing to slow. The statement says growth is now expected to decline to about 3 percent in 2017, compared to 3.8 percent in 2016.