LISBON (Reuters) - Angola's government has denied a report by Human Rights Watch suggesting that $32 billion are missing from state funds thought to be linked to the state oil company Sonangol, state news agency Angop reported on Tuesday.
The New York-based watchdog on December 20 urged the government to account for missing funds spent or transferred from 2007 through 2010, citing an International Monetary Fund report revealing that funds were not properly documented in the budget.
Angop cited a statement from the government saying it denies the funds are missing.
Angola is Africa's second-largest oil producer after Nigeria. President Jose Eduardo dos Santos' government has long been accused of mismanaging oil revenues and doing too little to fight graft in a country in which an estimated two-thirds of a population of 18 million live on less than $2 per day.
Angop said that the government admitted there was a discrepancy in accounts but believed this was a result of insufficient records.
Oil revenues represent over 95 percent of the country's export income and around 45 percent of gross domestic product.
Human Rights Watch said in its December report that the missing funds raised serious questions about the government's efforts to increase transparency.
The rights group on Monday published on its website a letter it sent to Angola's Finance Minister Carlos Alberto Lopes urging the administration to account for the funds.
Angop said the government had started a full clarification of the discrepancy with the IMF. A working group had been set up to present fiscal, monetary, foreign exchange and balance of payments statistics in coordination with the fund, it said.
"The government laments the sensationalism with which this matter was approached by some news organizations," Angop quoted the government as saying in the statement.
"The speculation and accusations of an alleged disappearance of missing funds are part of habitual campaigns from some sectors in their desperate attempt to discredit Angola's leaders and institutions."
(Reporting by Shrikesh Laxmidas; Editing by Peter Graff)