BY: PENI KOMAISAVAI
The Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption is staying mum over questions on whether it was instructed to cease its investigations of alleged corruption at the University of the South Pacific.
FICAC Public Relations Officer Bettylyn Matakitoga told IB Online today that the Commission would not answer our questions.
Last week the USP Council issued a media statement on behalf of FICAC, to confirm that the anti-corruption body in Fiji has terminated its investigations into the matters at USP.
The USP statement quoted FICAC as saying that the referral to it of the alleged mismanagement and abuse by the former Vice Chancellor was "unauthorised" and "premature."
The USP statement, issued under the name of the Council deputy chair Aloma Johansson and Mahmood Khan, the chair of the Council's audit and risk committee, also said that FICAC deemed the complaint administrative in nature.
IB Online in questions emailed to FICAC last Friday asked the Commission to confirm that it had:
- Authorised the USP Council to speak on its behalf on matters pertaining to the investigations of the USP;
- Erred in law when it accepted the complaint of corruption from the USP in April this year;
- Begun its investigations of the USP complaint and had even staged a raid at the university's audit and compliance office on 25 April to seize documents and files;
- Disagreed with Fiji Revenue & Custom Authority on the matter of the deferment of the payment of back pay to the former VC.
Meanwhile in another development, IB Online has established that Pro Chancellor Winston Thompson and Khan have called an urgent meeting with the USP's senior management team including Vice Chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia at the Laucala Bay Campus today.
USP ARC Chairman Mahmood Khan, while confirming that the meeting is scheduled, has refused to disclose what’s on the agenda.
However staff are concerned about today’s development. An executive member of the USP Staff Association, Associate Professor Dr Morgan Tuimaleali’ifano says Pro Chancellor Thompson should not be involved in any meeting or be involved in anything relating to the controversy.
“His name was included in the document, and he is also among those that have been implicated and for him to be holding or even be in a meeting during the investigation is questionable,” Dr Tuimalealiifano said.
He said it was a matter of ethics and that today’s meeting could be viewed as an interference with the ongoing investigations.
Dr Tuimaleali’ifano has again raised concerns over the decision to only invite New Zealand accounting firm to bid for the tender to carry out an independent investigation at USP, asking why Australian or Pacific Island companies weren’t asked to bid.