Former ambassador charged with malversation of funds
MANILA, Philippines—The Office of the Ombudsman ordered the filing of a criminal case against a former ambassador for misusing government funds worth over US$95,856.
In a 24-page resolution approved by acting Ombudsman Orlando Casimiro, the Ombudsman said there is probable cause to charge former Ambassador to Nigeria Masaranga Umpa of four counts of malversation of public funds under Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code for misusing Assistance to National (ATN) Standby Funds in the total amount of US$95,856 for the repatriation of abducted Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in 2007.
Umpa was appointed as Philippine Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Federal Republic of Nigeria by then President Joseph Estrada and was retained in a hold-over capacity by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) alleged in their complaint that of the amount US$174,000 sent on Feb. 7, 2007 for the safe release and repatriation of 24 Filipino seamen and crewmembers of Baco Liner II and one OFW, a total of US$95,856.08 were paid to non-existing or highly irregular transactions as evidenced by fabricated documents.
One transaction was allegedly made to appear as being paid to Wellington Hotel Limited in Warri Delta State, Nigeria covering the cost of 6 hotel rooms and meals of 11 police escorts, but the transaction was supported by fabricated documents.
The Filipino seamen were turned-over by the Nigerian authorities to Umpa and then DFA Secretary Esteban Cornejos, Jr. in the afternoon of Feb. 13, 2007 but the hotel bills indicated breakfast and lunch charges amounting to US$1,565 which could have not been incurred because the seamen were turned-over in the afternoon.
Nigerian hotel accountant Adeleke Osinuga denied issuing the receipts presented by Umpa to the DFA.
Further investigation showed that hotel bills were not stamped “paid” and charges were billed on the alleged date of departure; cash vouchers were not signed by the regular administrative officer; and the post exceeded its authority to engage the services of 11 escorts when only six escorts were allowed.
It was also learned that the embassy did not rent any room at Hotel Presidential (HP) on Feb. 18-28, 2007 for the accommodation of the police escorts; the six police escorts stayed at a hotel other than HP; and that no escorts were left behind at Port Harcourt. But Umpa presented receipts that the government incurred expenses worth US$20,944 for the said accommodation.
The DFA further stated in their complaint that an inquiry with the hotel showed that it has not received any payment from the Philippine Embassy since the hotel never billeted such a group, and that there were no guests registered as representatives of the embassy. Umpa also presented documents to show that a helicopter and van were chartered to transport the OFWs, to pad his claims for use of the ATN funds, but no such vehicles were used.
“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,” the Ombudsman resolution stated.
“He (Umpa) committed the acts of malversation through abandonment or negligence, by approving ‘for payment’ for the non-existing transactions…” the resolution further stated.
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