The Council of the University of the South Pacific has appointed a committee to implement the recommendations of BDO Auckland, which had been brought in to investigate allegations of mismanagement and abuse of office at the regional university.
In a statement released tonight, the Council says the BDO report resulted in a "range of findings and recommendations that will need to be addressed to ensure the sound operation of the University."
BDO Auckland was engaged to investigate the allegations raised in a paper by the Vice-Chancellor & President, Professor Pal Ahluwalia titled “Issues, Concerns and Breaches of Past Management and Financial Decisions.”
The statement tonight does not specify what BDO's recommendations are, but says the Commission's work will relate to:
The Council has promised transparency, saying it will develop an action plan that will be made publicly available, and that a summary of the BDO Auckland report will also be made public "in due course."
The Commission will report to three members of the USP Council; Committee Chairman Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna and Fiji's Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.
By Samisoni Pareti
Members of the University of the South Pacific Council have ended the first day of their two day meeting in Nadi, Fiji with still no official word on the outcome of their deliberations about the special investigation report on allegations of gross abuse and mismanagement by the previous management of the university.
IB Online has established that USP's pro chancellor, retired Ambassador Winston Thompson, did not chair today's session. The role went to the deputy chair of the USP Council, Alioma Johansson of Tonga.
Members of the university staff had called for Thompson to recuse himself from the investigation or from the role of pro chancellor as he was also implicated in the matter.
We have also established that Fiji's Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, who was minister for education for some time last year also attended today's closed door meeting at the Tanoa International Hotel, not far from Nadi International Airport.
Also present were members of the investigating team from BDO accounting firm in New Zealand, who took Council members through the findings of their investigations. They also took questions from the Council for most of today.
IB Online is advised that for the final day tomorrow, the USP Council meeting will deliberate on actions the university ought to take in light of the recommendations of the report.
We had reported earlier that this week's meeting of the Council is strictly a hard copy paper only, with the university forbidding the distribution of electronic copies of meeting documents. This has been done apparently to avoid any leak of meeting papers.
In May this year, Islands Business had reported on the content of a confidential report questioning the speedy appointments and contract renewals for at least eleven senior members of the USP, most of them Fiji nationals working at the main campus in Suva.
The report also raised questions about the payments of professional and development leave, as well as the deferment to this year, of back pay due to the former VC. The document states that the university is now concerned that it might be cited for tax evasion by Fiji's tax authorities as a result of the deferred back payment.
At least three of those implicated in the report have close ties with the ruling Fiji First Party of Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama.
The supreme body of the University of the South Pacific, the USP Council is meeting in Nadi, Fiji from today to discuss the report of the investigation into allegations of gross abuse and mismanagement at the regional institution.
The two-day meeting at the Tanoa International Hotel is however shrouded in deep secrecy, with reports circulating that the University Pro Chancellor, retired Ambassador Winston Thompson of Fiji directing that no electronic copy of meeting documents should be made available.
IB Online has also been reliably informed that copies of the investigators’ findings have not been circulated to council members beforehand as is the usual meeting practice. All Council members will get their copies when they attend today’s meeting.
Such a directive has got the university staff association worried, and they have told Islands Business they fear that attempts could be made to tamper or water down the content of the investigators’ report.
USP staff have repeatedly written to the USP Council to voice their concerns about the so called independence of the investigation, but these concerns have been largely ignored. They had also submitted that Thompson ought to step aside during the investigations because he is among those implicated in the allegations.
A New Zealand accounting firm, BDO was invited by the Council in July to conduct an investigation into allegations of abuse and mismanagement by the previous USP management that were highlighted in a confidential report that was authored by the university vice chancellor, Professor Pal Ahluwalia.
Staff had even questioned the appointment of BDO as investigator, given that the chair of the Council’s Audit & Risk Compliance committee was a former BDO partner.
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.