24 Sep Jon Cartu Reports USP and government not making any comments on the withholdi…
USP and government not making any comments on the withholding of Fiji grant to the university
Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and USP Vice Chancellor, Professor Pal Ahluwalia
The University of the South Pacific is not saying anything today after revelations that the Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has decided to hold the grants to USP until allegations against the Vice Chancellor and other USP staff are dealt with.
USP Vice Chancellor, Professor Pal Ahluwalia has declined to make any comments while the USP Council is also tightlipped on the issue.
Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and Minister for Education, Rosy Akbar are also not saying anything.
However National Federation Party President, Pio Tikoduadua says it is shocking that Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has decided to withhold the Fijian Government’s grant to the USP on what he says are flimsy allegations, which the USP Council has rejected.
The NFP President says the law of the land is clear: USP is a legal entity founded by a number of Pacific Island Countries which by law are obliged to fund the University on pre-agreed basis.
Tikoduadua says USP’s financial accounts are audited by credible accounting firms registered to practice in Fiji. He says audited accounts for 2019 are unqualified and there is no basis for the Government to withhold any funds.
Fiji has allocated $27.6 million for USP in the 2020/2021 National Budget. He further says if the Government is unhappy with the way its grants are used, then it has recourse to the provisions of the Finance Management Act, under which it can itself audit the funds it has contributed.
Tikoduadua says without this, holding any grant, is bordering on the illegal and absolute bad faith.
He also says it is widely known that USP has been mired in corrupt practices, which were the subject of a report by a New Zealand based accounting firm, the BDO New Zealand. He also says this accounting firm confirmed massive instances of abuse of funds uncovered by the present Vice Chancellor.
Tikoduadua also demanded that the BDO report be made public as public funds are used at USP. He says the public has a right to read the report by the accounting firm.
The NFP President says they demand that taxpayers money not be withheld by the Minister for Economy from USP, and that the Government allow USP to be governed by the USP Council as established by law.
Unfortunately the past is being repeated – Khan
The Chairperson of the USP Audit and Risk Committee Mahmood Khan is calling for allegations put forward by him and the Pro-Chancellor Winston Thompson against USP Vice-Chancellor Pal Ahluwalia to be independently investigated.
However the USP Council is not saying anything on the public statements mady by Khan and Thompson.
When Fijivillage sent questions to VC Ahluwalia, we were told that the Vice Chancellor will only answer to any allegations put forward to him by the USP Council.
On 1st June this year, Khan wrote to members of the USP Council indicating that he finds himself compelled to write directly to the members of council regarding various allegations and matters that have come to his attention.
He wrote that it requires immediate independent investigation.
There were 33 allegations.
Earlier this month, Khan wrote again to the council with a list of new allegations about some members of the USP staff.
Khan says all he has done is convey the facts to whoever it needs to be told to and he is not accusing anyone.
The Chartered Accountant claims things in the BDO report are being repeated by the new management.
He says these are allegations that have been sent to him and if they are material, actions should be taken against the persons that are liable.
Khan says he has also sent matters relating to other people for investigation and it is not only Ahluwalia so he does not understand why he has been accused of having a personal vendetta.
He says he actually wished that people looked at it from the point of view that he is trying to help USP get back on track.
Khan says there will always be people shooting him down because they are being fed one side of the story.
Earlier this month, the University of the South Pacific Council resolved that it is terminating the proceedings initiated against the Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Pal Ahluwalia.
The USP Council says this is based on the detailed and painstaking work undertaken by the Special Executive Committee.
It says the Special Executive Committee decided on 24th August 2020 that there were no allegations where the consensus or clear majority view were deemed material.
While speaking on these allegations which Ahluwalia has been cleared of, Khan says he was never contacted by the committee that was looking into investigations of the allegations.
Khan says he was never asked to give any information to the Special Executive Committee.
He says the first thing they should have done is talk to him as he is the person that would have all the documents and information.
Khan has written to the USP Council about this.
He says he did not put up these allegations and they were brought forward to him as the Chairman of the Audit and Risk Committee.
Khan says what he is saying is these are things that have been reported to him, please investigate and if its wrong then please take action.
He says he is sick and tired of wastage of funds and time and all the things that have been carried on – both in the past and in the future
Khan claims that unfortunately the past is being repeated.