Nauru’s President says moves by University of the South Pacific’s Pro-Chancellor to schedule an Executive Council meeting today “seems very much like an attempt at undermining [the USP] Council or usurping the authority of Council.”
Lionel Aingimea, who is also USP Chancellor, is particularly concerned that the Executive Committee meeting called by Pro-Chancellor Winston Thompson is reviewing the dismissal of the former USP Pacific’s Technical and Further Education chief executive officer, Hasmukh Lal.
Lal was dismissed following concerns over his academic credentials and the circumstances in which he gained them. In a letter to Pro-Chancellor Thompson, President Aingimea writes “You sir are muddying the process once again. The Lal matter is clearly before Council and Council is waiting for the Executive Committee report which will in part address the Lal issue.”
“There are also serious conflicts of interest in discussing the Lal matter if it involves you, the Deputy Pro Chancellor, the Chair of Audit and Risk Committee and the Vice-Chancellor” Aingimea continues. “These conflicts of interest automatically undermine the credibility of the meeting you are calling on Friday.”
“Prudence would be the operative word I leave with you and strongly recommend that the Executive Committee meeting for this coming Friday [today] be deferred until such time as the issues in the BDO report and the Executive Committee report is submitted to Council and decision taken accordingly.”
Senior USP academics and staff are accused in a special audit report of manipulating allowances to pay themselves hundreds of thousands of dollars they were not entitled to.
The payments were revealed by Vice-Chancellor Pal Ahluwalia on November 1, 2018. Since then, Vice Chancellor Ahluwalia and Pro Chancellor Thompson, have been at loggerheads, with their opposing factions rallying behind them.
Ahluwalia’s whistle-blowing led to the Auckland office of international accounting firm BDO being bought in to investigate.