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Were Bali Tourism Promotion Funds Stolen?

Press Identifies Bali Tourism Officer I Gusti Ngurah Putu Ambara as Lead Suspect in Misallocation of Promotional Funds.

Bali News: Bali, tourism, promotional funds, I Gusti Ngurah Putu Ambara, Gede Nurjaya
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IB Siwananda, an official from the Denpasar Prosecutor's Office, has confirmed that his office is intensively investigating a case of corruption alleged to have occurred at the Provincial Tourism Office for Bali (Disparda). Facts uncovered by prosecutors to date have allowed the case to be upgraded from research to the classification of full-fledged investigation.

According to Radar Bali, prosecutor are now treating the former section head for promotions at Disparda, I Gusti Ngurah Putu Ambara, as a lead suspect form among the more than ten people prosecutors consider to have information regarding the misuse of Bali's tourism promotion budget.

Radar Bali also expects that more suspects will be named, including former ranking officials at Bali Tourism Office.

When pressed by reporters to reveal the actual amount of money lost and the means used in its corruption, Siwananda refused comment because the details of the investigation remain classified and under the control of the chief of special crime division, Ridwan Kadir.

Information obtained independently by Radar Bali indicate that a total of Rp. 3 billion (US$319,000) was embezzled from tourism promotional budgets allocated for international promotion between 2002-2008.

The stolen funds reportedly originated from Bali's annual budget over the subject years with irregular "double" claims for reimbursement made from both provincial sources and from the central government in Jakarta.

This suspected malfeasance of promotion funds took place during the reign of Gede Nurjaya as the chief of Bali tourism (Kapispard). Ambara's attorney told the press: "The appointment of my client as the chief of promotions was done under the authority of the Kadisparda. In carrying out every activity or duty, my client (Ambara) acted on the orders of the Kadisparda (Nurjaya)."

The attorney also rejected claims of Rp. 3 billion in lost funds, saying investigators have only been reviewing the expenditure of Rp.120 million (US$12,765) used to rent promotion space at a London travel show. Those fund, he insists, came from provincial budgets set aside for tourism promotion.

The lawyer was adamant that if there was any misuse of funds, his client was too lowly placed to have stolen any funds, with approvals and authorizations needed from the Department Chief to draw down the alleged stolen funds.

When news of the malfeasance were first revealed, Bali's governor Made Mangku Pastika was said to be incensed, calling for a thorough public airing as he established a special team to investigate the alleged corruption. Shortly thereafter, Pastika cut the amount allocated for tourism promotion in Bali's budget.

According to DenPost, the results of the independent investigation into the case carried out at the governor's request are expected to be made public in the near future.

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