USP rocked by abuse allegations

By Samisoni Pareti & Peni Komaisavai

Allegations of serious cases of mismanagement and abuse of process at the University of the South Pacific involving its former Vice Chancellor and President have emerged.

A document sighted by Islands Business 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.

The document also raises 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.

In the document made available to Islands Business, the appointments of at least two Deans of USP’s faculties are questioned. Also questioned is the post-retirement renewal of an institute director’s contract. His 
contract has allegedly been renewed six times. USP’s post-retirement policy allows for only 3 one-year renewals.

The document also raises concern over the promotion of a Fiji national whose salary allegedly “moved from F$28,174 to F$138,700 within a period of 6 years.”

The document questions “unusual cases” of responsibility allowance payments. This allowance is generally paid for acting roles and extra duties taken outside a staff member’s section of employment.

In one case, a staff member is alleged to have been paid more than $159,500 in various allowances, “for doing work or managing projects in his own section.” The re-appointment of this executive’s contract is also under 
scrutiny as the former VC allegedly overruled the staff review committee’s decision not to renew the contract, as the executive was due to reach the university’s retirement age.

When contacted in Suva today, the former Vice Chancellor claimed to be unaware of the allegations, and that no one from USP or Fiji’s Ministry of Education had been in touch about the matter.

In response to Islands Business’ questions as to whether these matters would be raised at next week’s USP Council meeting, current Vice Chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia said “no comment.”

Islands Business contacted the office of Rosie Akbar, the Minister for Education and was asked by her personal assistant that our queries be directed to her Permanent Secretary, Alison Burchell.

Questions emailed to Burchell remained unanswered by press time.

USP rocked by Abuse Allegations

Reports have surfaced about serious cases of mismanagement and abuse at the University of the South Pacific involving its former vice chancellor and president, Professor Rajesh Chandra.

Documents cited by Islands Business questions cases of speedy appointments or renewal of contracts of at least eleven senior members of the university, majority of them Fiji nationals who are all working at the main university campus in Suva.

Questions are also being raised about the payments of professional and development leave, as well as the deferment to 2019 of back pay that was due to be paid to Professor Chandra in July, 2018.

The university now worries that it might be cited for tax evasions by Fiji’s tax authorities if the back pay was to be paid now.

The appointments of at least two Deans of the USP’s faculties are being questioned in the confidential report made available to Islands Business. It also included the post retirement renewal of the contract of a director of the university, his 6th post retirement renewals.

USP policies only allow for 3 one-year renewals.

Also raised is the speedy promotion of a Fiji national whose “salary moved from F$28174 to F$138700 within a period of 6 years.”

Another Fiji national’s position at the university is being questioned for being paid “responsibility allowance” amounting to F$159.534.68. The re-appointment of this executive’s contract is also under scrutiny since the former VC reportedly overruled the staff review committee’s decision not to renew the executive’s contract as he has reached the university’s retirement age.

Contacted in Suva today, Professor Chandra said he is not aware of the allegations made against him nor has anyone either at the university or at the Fiji ministry of education been in touch with him about the matter.

Islands Business got in touch with the office of Rosie Akbar, the minister for education, but was asked by her personal assistant that our queries be directed to her Permanent Secretary, Alison Burchell.

Questions emailed to Burchell remained unanswered by press time.

 

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