BY: PENI KOMAISAVAI
University of the South Pacific staff members are questioning the independence of the investigations into allegations of mismanagement at the university.
They are concerned that Auckland accounting firm BDO has been appointed as the investigating body for the mismanagement allegations, because the current Audit and Risk Committee Chair and Fiji Government representative to USP council, Mahmood Khan, is a former BDO employee.
Khan declared his conflict of interest and connections to BDO before the selection process began. However some USP staff members say that is not enough.
“No purported declaration of a conflict of interest by Mr Kahn will remove our concerns that the independence of the investigation may have been compromised,” the AUSPS and USPSU Secretariats say.
The staff members are also concerned over the delay in the approval of their petition by Khan and the Deputy Chair of Council for the Secretariat.
The USP staff first lodged their petition on June 14 with 383 signatures from staff based on the Laucala campus in Suva.
They have since sent a second list of signatures of staff from outside Suva, but say this list has not been forwarded to the Council.
In the petition they call on the USP Council to ensure the investigation into the allegations of mismanagement and abuse of power are “conducted without fear or favour by a truly independent body which has no direct or indirect link to any person allegedly implicated.”
They also ask that the USP’s Pro-Chancellor Winston Thomson be recused from the position, saying “his public defence of those implicated in the allegations is premature and unprofessional and compromises his position as Chair.”
The staff associations now say: “The total number of signatures from the two lists is over 500 with more to be forwarded as they are received as stakeholders of the University. Tis delay in sanctioning the dispatch of the second list of signatures by Staff from outside of Laucala to council is unhelpful.”