Jul 22, 2019 Last Updated 10:14 PM, Jul 21, 2019

The University of the South Pacific has invited four Auckland-based accounting firms to bid for the task of undertaking an independent investigation into allegations by the USP’s current Vice Chancellor and President Professor Pal Ahluwalia.

The allegations are raised in a paper “Issues, Concerns and Breaches of Past Management and Financial Decisions” which questions the circumstances around a number of appointments and financial decisions during the tenure of the previous VC.

Bids to conduct the investigation will close on Monday and the USP’s  Audit and Risk Committee will meet on Tuesday to appoint the investigator.

Meanwhile Fiji’s Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has told parliament it wouldn’t be prudent to comment on the matter. Fiji is USP’s largest funder and provides the majority of its students.

Australia’s High Commission in Suva has also declined to comment on the matter.

The report of the Independent Investigator is due by August 16.

For detailed coverage of the controversy at USP, pick up a copy of the June issue of Islands Business.

The final report of an independent investigation into allegations of mismanagement and abuse of process at the University of the South Pacific (USP) is due by August 16.

The terms of reference for the investigation have been drawn up, and sent to Council members for their approval.

In a statement released today, USP’s Deputy Pro-Chancellor Aloma Johansson and the Chair of the USP Audit and Risk Committee Mahmood Khan state that once the TOR is approved, the risk and audit committee will invite several independent investigators to register their interest, with a view to starting the investigation by June 20.

The Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption is conducting its own investigation into the allegations, which were first reported by Islands Business  last month.

The allegations are detailed in a lengthy document which questions allegedly speedy appointments and contract renewals for at least eleven senior members of the university staff, most of them Fiji nationals working at the main campus in Suva.

Since the allegations were first aired, USP’s second largest funder, New Zealand’s foreign minister has said his government is asking for explanations over the matter.

By Samantha Magick

The University of the South Pacific’s Council says an independent investigation into allegations against its former Vice Chancellor will 
be conducted “on its behalf.”

This was a unanimous resolution of the Council during its meeting in Vanuatu that ended yesterday (17th May).

The Council has also expressed support for an investigation being undertaken by the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) 
into the allegations of mismanagement and abuse of process.

The Council says it will provide further updates to the USP community in “due course.”

The allegations, which were first reported by Islands Business last week, are detailed in a lengthy document which questions allegedly 
speedy appointments and contract renewals for at least eleven senior members of the university staff, most of them Fiji nationals working at 
the main campus in Suva.

This week representatives of the three USP staff unions called for a thorough and independent investigation into the allegations, and asked 
that all those implicated in the leaked report be suspended while the independent inquiry is conducted.

Islands Business’ questions on who will make up the independent investigation and the timeframe of their work have reportedly been referred to USP Council deputy chair, and deputy Pro Chancellor Aloma Johansson.

She has yet to respond by press time.

ends/.

By Peni Komaisavai

Employees of the University of the South Pacific are calling for a thorough and independent investigation into allegations of mismanagement and abuse of process at the university.

All three USP staff unions are also demanding that all those implicated in the leaked report that highlighted the alleged abuse be suspended while the independent inquiry is conducted.

The demands were raised at a public forum university employees held at their main campus in Suva today. It comes as the supreme decision making body of the university, the USP Council, meets in the Vanuatu capital, Port Vila today.

It is not clear whether the meeting would discuss the content of the report, first reported by IB Online last Friday. Before his departure for Vanuatu on Monday this week, USP Pro Chancellor and Council chair Ambassador Winston Thompson of Fiji confirmed that the matter was not on the agenda.

He did admit that if raised by any of the 12-member island countries that own the university, the matter could be discussed in a closed door session amongst the ministers only. Education ministers of the 12-member countries are members of the USP Council, as well as representatives of university staff and students.

Ambassador Thompson was not a popular man among the university employees who attended today’s public forum. In their three-point demands released at the end of the forum, university staff said they wanted “a firm response to the Pro Chancellor on his press release and the way he undermined the office of the Vice Chancellor and President of the USP."

The staff unions are claiming that Ambassador Thompson bypassed Vice Chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia when he used university resources, including the USP letterhead, in releasing a media statement late on Tuesday this week.

In that statement, Ambassador Thompson said he was concerned and disappointed that “a confidential document containing unsubstantiated allegations against many individuals including myself has been leaked before any of the others have even seen the allegations and before any of us have had a chance to refute them.”

“Quite clearly, a gross injustice has been done to the named individuals who have worked assiduously and who do not deserve to be treated in this way. I apologise to them in the name of the University.”

Ambassador Thompson also disclosed that he had requested an investigation to be carried out to ascertain the person or persons that leaked the confidential USP report.

 

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