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Ex-ambassador faces malversation raps over use of OFW repatriation funds

/ 05:55 PM June 20, 2011

MANILA, Philippines — A former ambassador is expected to be haled to court over allegations that he had misused over $95,000 worth of funds for overseas Filipino workers (OFW).

Acting Ombudsman Orlando Casimiro has ordered the filing of malversation charges against former ambassador to Nigeria Masaranga Umpa for allegedly paying for non-existent or highly irregular transactions related to the repatriation of Filipino workers.

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The Office of the Ombudsman found basis to hold Umpa liable based on the complaint of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

“In the instant case, it is very clear that the respondent (Umpa) had been very negligent in his duty of counter-checking the supporting documents for the cash advances for several transactions which he, himself, was involved in,” it said.

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According to the Office of the Ombudsman, the DFA had accused Umpa of using fabricated documents to support questionable transactions amounting to $95,856.

The DFA had sent Umpa $174,000 in 2007 to be used for the safe release and repatriation of 24 seamen and crew members of Baco Liner II and one other OFW.

But the DFA said that in one transaction, it was made to appear that Wellington Hotel Limited in Warri Delta State, Nigeria, was paid for the cost of six hotel rooms and the meals of 11 police escorts.

But this transaction was supported by fake documents, as attested to by hotel accountant Adeleke Osinuga who said that the documents presented to him for certification did not come from the hotel.

The hotel bills showed that breakfast and lunch charges amounted to $1,565, but the DFA alleged that this could not have been incurred.

It was further alleged that the bills were not stamped as “paid” and charges were billed on the alleged date of departure. The cash vouchers were also not signed by the regular administrative officer. The hiring of 11 escorts was also excessive since only six were allowed.

Another questioned transaction was the supposed rent of a room at Hotel Presidential in February 2007 for police escorts. It was discovered that the escorts allegedly stayed at another hotel. Expenses amounting to $20,994 were supported by bogus documents, it was alleged.

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Another supposed stay in March 2007 at the Hotel Presidential was also found to have never taken place, and the supporting documents were allegedly fabricated.

Umpa also allegedly presented documents to show that a helicopter and van were chartered to ferry OFWs in order to pad his claims for the use of the funds, even though no such vehicles were used.

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TAGS: ambassadors, Crime and Law and Justice, Foreign Service, Graft and corruption
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