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Fiji’s AG attends USP meeting

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.

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