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USP Saga

USP Saga

By fijivillage
Friday 03/07/2020

Full coverage of the USP saga including coverage of protests, investigations, reports and meetings.


USP to confirm later on how many students will be financially assisted

By Dhanjay Deo
Tuesday 14/07/2020
[Image: University of the South Pacific]

The University of the South Pacific says it cannot confirm now as to how many private undergraduate and postgraduate level students will be financially assisted.

The USP through the Student Bursary Scheme will cover up to 50% of total tuition fees for students who are facing financial hardship.

Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) Professor Jito Vanualailai says the numbers will not be known until later in the year as the bursary has just opened.

Vanualailai says in the past, the bursary has assisted between 250-300 students per semester. The University says that applicants must pay their fees prior to fee payment deadline and will be subsequently refunded if their application is successful.

It says all registered students are eligible for the bursary assistance, with the exception of students supported by sponsorship or scholarships schemes and students who are eligible for TSLB Schemes.

The applicants will need to have a GPA of 2.5 or better in the most recent semester/trimester and have a combined family income of not more than $25,000 a year.

The USP says the bursary will cover one student per family between sibling and parents.




USP Council resolves to release BDO Report to Council members only

By Vijay Narayan
Friday 03/07/2020
USP

The USP Council has resolved that the BDO Report be released to Council members only.

The Council is now in recess and will reconvene on Wednesday, 12th August 2020 at 9.30am.

Click here for BDO report 




Motion for Thompson to step down expected to be discussed in today’s USP Council meeting

By Vijay Narayan, Semi Turaga
Friday 03/07/2020
Nauru President Lionel Aingimea

The University of the South Pacific Council is currently meeting at the Laucala Campus, and the Pro Chancellor Winston Thompson is not in attendance after his recusal from the last meeting.

Fijivillage has received information that the council had a discussion on whether Nauru President Lionel Aingimea should continue as interim chair now that he is the Chancellor of USP.

It has been agreed that Aingimea will continue as chair.

Nauru-President-Lionel-Aingimea

The council is also expected to look at the ordinance governing the disciplinary procedures of the Vice-Chancellor.

We have also received information that a motion for the Pro-Chancellor and Chair of the USP Council Winston Thompson to step down during the process of the Vice-Chancellor Pal Ahluwalia being independently investigated will be discussed in the meeting.

Fijivillage has received confirmation that the USP Council Working Group will also provide a report on the BDO report.

The Council Secretariat is not saying anything as yet if the USP Council has appointed the team that will look into allegations against the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Pal Ahluwalia.

Ahluwalia-02-sm

There are also no comments on what is the progress on the BDO Report investigation by the Commission appointed by the Council and we are still awaiting the Council's comments on the BDO Report and whether anyone will be taken to task.

The USP students, staff and alumni have also written to the Council saying that they believe the only solution to this impasse is the replacement of Winston Thompson as the Pro-Chancellor by the election of a person who is able to work with the Vice-Chancellor without hostility, in the best interest of USP.

They also want Thompson to recuse himself from the meeting before an independent investigation committee is appointed to look into the allegation against VC Ahluwalia.

They also say that the USP Council, as the university’s governing body, is answerable to taxpayers, development partners and stakeholders in pursuance of the university’s vision and mission and this demands that the BDO findings of any investigation should be made known to the university’s owners.

They say to withhold the report is to deny natural justice and to protect those who failed to comply with policy and process and may be regarded as gross misconduct.

The staff, students and alumni also say that there are those named in the BDO Report who retain management positions at USP.

They say the question being asked is how do the staff and students, development partners and university communities continue to respect and take direction from these individuals who for their own personal benefit agreed and supported actions to circumvent and violate policies they designed and were paid to implement.

The students, staff and alumni are also saying that for USP’s integrity, through a process of natural justice, action should be taken against those who, by virtue of their positions, failed in their fiduciary duty to uphold university policies and procedures.




USP Council to meet today

By Vijay Narayan
Thursday 02/07/2020
USP Pro-Chancellor Winston Thompson. [image: USP]

The University of the South Pacific Council is meeting this hour however the Council Secretariat has said that the agenda of their meeting will not be revealed to the public.

Fijivillage has received confirmation that there are moves to remove the USP’s Pro-Chancellor Winston Thompson.

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The Council Secretariat has also not confirmed on whether Thompson and USP Chair of Audit and Risk Committee, Mahmood Khan will attend today’s meeting.

The USP students, staff and alumni have also written to the Council saying that they believe the only solution to this impasse is the replacement of Winston Thompson as the Pro Chancellor by the election of a person who is able to work with the Vice Chancellor without hostility, in the best interest of USP.




Commission looking into BDO report is still in force - Akbar

By Vijay Narayan, Naveel Krishant
Tuesday 23/06/2020
Education Minister Rosy Akbar

Fijian Education Minister, Rosy Akbar says the three member commission which is looking into issues raised in the BDO report following the allegations raised by USP Vice Chancellor, Pal Ahluwalia last year, is still in force.

Akbar says the Commission is still investigating the report.

Meanwhile, USP Pro-Chancellor, Winston Thompson had stressed that the 3 member commission that was appointed to look into issues raised in the BDO report following the allegations raised by Vice Chancellor Ahluwalia last year, are still working on tightening up governance issues at the university.

winston-01-sm

Thompson says when the BDO report was tabled to the USP Council last year, it had made various decisions which included the setting up of a committee of 3 Ministers which was tasked to follow up on the BDO report particularly as it related to governance weaknesses within USP.

He says the Committee of 3 Ministers appointed a Commission of 3 who are still working on going through governance instruments, policies and procedures to try to tighten up where it seemed that they were weak.

The Committee consists of Professor Satish Chand, Professor Jenni Lightowers and Graeme McNally.

Thompson says he has been informed that the BDO report has been leaked when it should have been kept confidential.

The BDO report arose from the allegations of misconduct that USP Vice-Chancellor Ahluwalia had made against the previous management team.

Thompson says the allegations were considered serious but it was incomplete and more information was needed to establish whether a decision was needed to be made by the Executive Committee.

Thompson says the allegations were submitted by Ahluwalia to the Executive Committee in March.

He adds the committee decided then to ask the University’s Director of Audit, Assurance and Compliance to investigate and get information from those who were being accused in the document and come back to the committee in the next meeting to give a report.

Thompson says in the next meeting the Director said that she decided to hand this to FICAC.

He says he was informed in May that the report was on Facebook.

Thompson says one week later when the Council met in Vanuatu and because of the publicity, the Council was alarmed and so they then were promoted into setting up a special investigation and from which the BDO investigation took place.

The committee of 3 ministers comprising of Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa Fiame Naomi Mata'afa (Chairperson), Prime Minister of Cook Islands Henry Puna and Fijian Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum had resolved towards the end of last year that a Summary of the Independent Investigation Report by BDO Auckland should be made publicly available.

BBDO report into USP that is being looked at by the 3 member commission

The report states that the investigation was carried out on an evidential basis, with allegations or assertions being traced through to documentary evidence. However, due to the level and/or quality of documentation retained by the USP, this wasn’t always possible. As a result, BDO was not able to substantiate a number of the allegations.

BDO’s view was that a majority of the decisions investigated were made within the boundaries of the Vice Chancellor’s Ordinance. However, it said when critically analysed, the rationale for many of the decisions taken is unclear.

BDO also stated that it was of the view that further investigation is required and a number of policies and ordinances require significant alignment and stronger oversight from the USP’s Executive Committee and Council.

The independent investigation report also noted that similar themes and control weaknesses were identified by the USP’s internal audit service provider over the past few years. It states that these Human Resources and payroll concerns were reported in accordance with USP’s standard internal audit reporting process across three reports.

BDO Auckland says the conclusions within these reports point clearly to a need for greater oversight, control and management of the HR and payroll functions at the USP.

It also says that the outcomes of the BDO investigation suggest that the recommendations raised have only been partially implemented, or in some cases, not at all.

BDO Auckland also said that while the allegations highlighted in the paper have arisen in an unfortunate manner, they have raised serious concerns that require attention and action.

It said that these provide USP with an opportunity to reflect and take corrective action that will ultimately improve the culture and quality of education and research at USP.

The investigation focused on allegations made by Vice Chancellor Ahluwalia in 2019.

BDO says those allegations primarily related to human resource and remuneration decisions that were made by the former Vice Chancellor and the senior management team of the USP.

It said in it’s introduction, objective and scope that the paper put forward 26 allegations of mismanagement by the former Vice Chancellor of the USP who held office from 2008 to 2018. BDO says to a lesser extent, the paper implicated other members of the USP’s senior management team as either beneficiaries, or decision makers.

BDO stated that it is of the view that oversight, governance, and control of remuneration is a key weakness across the USP. It said that this was the key theme throughout the investigation as many of the matters raised in the paper, or the likely motivations behind those matters, relate to remuneration.

It said that the USP’s current policy framework, while extensive, is overly complex, fragmented, outdated, and generally isn’t fit-for-purpose. The report said that as a result, four remuneration mechanisms have collectively been exploited and have led to significant cash leakage across the USP over a number of years. These mechanisms are inducement allowances, responsibility and acting allowances, bonuses and consultancy agreements. BDO has also recommended a comprehensive structural review of the USP’s human resources function. The review should focus on building institutional knowledge to drive consistent, efficient policy applications and behaviour. BDO has also recommended an urgent review of the USP’s core human resources policies, procedures, and forms.

The focus of this review should be on simplifying policies to drive more efficient, transparent, and equitable behaviour.

There are currently three ordinances, 58 policies, four procedures, and 38 forms stored in the human resources section of the USP Policy Library.

The BDO report also noted that USP has a significant reliance on employees who have reached retirement age.

BDO noted that numerous senior academic and professional positions are held by staff members who have reached retirement age.

It said that in itself, this is not an issue, however, BDO also noted that many of these individuals had been appointed in those roles numerous times after reaching retirement age.

It said this would suggest a lack of succession planning across these senior roles.



It is a delight to be back at work – Ahluwalia

By Naveel Krishant
Tuesday 23/06/2020
University of the South Pacific’s Vice Chancellor and President Professor Pal Ahluwalia [Image: USP]

University of the South Pacific’s Vice Chancellor and President, Professor Pal Ahluwalia says after what has been a disruptive two weeks, it is a delight to be back at work however the USP Council has stated that allegations of material misconduct against Professor Ahluwalia will still be investigated.

In an email to staff and students, Professor Ahluwalia says he is overwhelmed by the show of support by all of them and the decision to reinstate him is a decision that reflects all the prayers and good wishes.

He says his wife and him will always be humbled and grateful for the support across the region.

Ahluwalia says it is now time for all of them to focus on the well-being and future of their students.

He adds no doubt, over the last few days, they have been distracted and it is now everyone’s responsibility to ensure that they are able to do their best as they come towards the end of the semester.

Ahluwalia further says COVID-19 has already impacted on their core business but it is now evident that they will be able to resume face-to-face teaching in the second semester.

He says for all their students, especially in the region, provisions will be made to continue remote teaching to ensure that the current academic year can be successfully completed.

Ahluwalia further says it is now time for them to move forward and do their best to restore the pride and esteem in which USP is held.

Meanwhile, Ahluwalia was reinstated to office on Friday.

The USP Council had stated that having considered the decision by the university’s Executive Committee to suspend Ahluwalia, the Council was not persuaded that due process was followed in the suspension of Vice-Chancellor Ahluwalia.

The USP Council says they set aside the suspension of the Vice-Chancellor and President by the Executive Committee and have resolved that the process as prescribed in An Ordinance to Govern the Discipline of the Vice-Chancellor be followed in investigating any allegations against the Vice-Chancellor and President.

The allegations of material misconduct against Professor Ahluwalia will still be investigated however he will remain in office during the course of the investigations.




USP Council decides to reinstate VC Pal Ahluwalia back in office

By Vijay Narayan, Semi Turaga
Friday 19/06/2020
University of the South Pacific’s Vice-Chancellor Pal Ahluwalia

University of the South Pacific’s Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Pal Ahluwalia has been reinstated to office and his suspension has been lifted.

The USP Council has stated that having considered the decision by the university’s Executive Committee to suspend the Vice-Chancellor and President, the Council is not persuaded that due process was followed in the suspension of Vice-Chancellor Ahluwalia.

The USP Council says they set aside the suspension of the Vice-Chancellor and President by the Executive Committee and have resolved that the process as prescribed in An Ordinance to Govern the Discipline of the Vice-Chancellor be followed in investigating any allegations against the Vice-Chancellor and President.

The Council agreed to the decision after a full day meeting starting at 9am and ending at about 5pm.

The allegations of material misconduct against Professor Ahluwalia will still be investigated however he will remain in office during the course of the investigations.

Earlier in the Council meeting, USP Pro-Chancellor Winston Thompson recused himself due to a conflict of interest as he was the Chairman of the Executive Committee that decided to suspend Ahluwalia pending independent investigations.

Winstossdddn-SM

When approached by Fijivillage after the meeting, Fijian Education Minister, Rosy Akbar said she cannot confirm the Council’s decision at this stage as they decided as a Council to release the statement this evening.

However, Akbar says they discussed all issues and made the final decision as a USP Council.

Akbar-in-USP

She says they continue to promote good governance.

Akbar also made it clear that it was not Fiji’s decision not to make the BDO New Zealand Report public, and Fiji has supported the appointment of the three-member Commission which is still looking into the findings of the report.

President of Nauru and incoming Chancellor of USP wants special Council meeting to be held this

By Naveel Krishant [Saturday 13/06/2020]

6587955915ee43097ca4b33deb2dd5  

The President of Nauru and the incoming Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific, Lionel Aingimea says they require that the special Council meeting be scheduled for 10am this Wednesday and not Friday.

In a letter to USP Pro-Chancellor, Winston Thompson, Aingimea says that the matter must be dealt with at the first possible opportunity.

He also says for transparency and security reasons, the Zoom meeting should not be compromised by having USP staff supporting this meeting.

Aingimea adds they will organize an independent organization or Australia or New Zealand to initiate the meeting.

Earlier

We acted within our powers – Winston Thompson -  Thursday 11/06/2020

VC Ahluwalia’s suspension is in no way linked to the allegations he brought up last year – USP - By Vijay Narayan

Thompson[ Pro-Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific Winston Thompson]

The Pro-Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific Winston Thompson had stressed on Thursday that the university’s Executive Committee acted within its powers to look into allegations of material misconduct against Vice-Chancellor Pal Ahluwalia and to suspend him pending an independent investigation.

Thompson says claims that the Executive Committee acted illegally on Monday, are incorrect.

Thompson had said if you read the statutes and ordinance, it gives specific powers to the Executive Committee to do what it did.

He stressed that during an emergency, the Executive Committee may act on behalf of the USP Council and then report back to the Council.

Thompson had said the allegations against Ahluwalia will be thoroughly investigated so that the facts will come forward and hopefully it will be sufficiently clear, and it will point to one way or the other.

He adds that an independent team will be chosen to conduct the investigation.

Thompson had also stressed that the allegations against Ahluwalia is separate from the report he had prepared last year.

I have done nothing wrong and will fight any allegations lawfully- Ahluwalia 

By Naveel Krishant - [Tuesday 09/06/2020]

Ahluwalia-02-sm[Suspended USP Vice-Chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia]

Suspended USP Vice-Chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia had said on Monday that this evil has done the university so much damage.

Ahluwalia says he has done nothing wrong and he will fight any allegations lawfully. He says there have been nine investigations against him already.

3 member commission still working on tightening up governance issues at USP - Friday 12/06/2020

Greater oversight, control and management of the HR and payroll functions needed at the USP – BDO report - By Vijay Narayan and Naveel Krishant

usp-CAMPUS

USP Pro-Chancellor, Winston Thompson stresses that the 3 member commission that was appointed to look into issues raised in the BDO report following the allegations raised by USP Vice Chancellor, Pal Ahluwalia last year, are still working on tightening up governance issues at the university.

Thompson says when the BDO report was tabled to the USP Council last year, it had made various decisions which included the setting up of a committee of 3 Ministers which was tasked to follow up on the BDO report particularly as it related to governance weaknesses within USP.

He says the Committee of 3 Ministers appointed a Commission of 3 who are still working on going through governance instruments, policies and procedures to try to tighten up where it seemed that they were weak. The Committee consists of Professor Satish Chand, Professor Jenni Lightowers and Graeme McNally.

Thompson says he has been informed that the BDO report has been leaked when it should have been kept confidential.

The BDO report arose from the allegations of misconduct that USP Vice-Chancellor Ahluwalia had made against the previous management team.

Thompson says the allegations were considered serious but it was incomplete and more information was needed to establish whether a decision was needed to be made by the Executive Committee.

Thompson says the allegations were submitted by Ahluwalia to the Executive Committee in March.

He adds the committee decided then to ask the University’s Director of Audit, Assurance and Compliance to investigate and get information from those who were being accused in the document and come back to the committee in the next meeting to give a report.

Thompson says in the next meeting the Director said that she decided to hand this to FICAC.

He says he was informed in May that the report was on Facebook.

Thompson says one week later when the Council met in Vanuatu and because of the publicity, the Council was alarmed and so they then were promoted into setting up a special investigation and from which the BDO investigation took place.

The committee of 3 ministers comprising of Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa Fiame Naomi Mata'afa (Chairperson), Prime Minister of Cook Islands Henry Puna and Fijian Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum had resolved towards the end of last year that a Summary of the Independent Investigation Report by BDO Auckland should be made publicly available.

BDO report into USP that is being looked at by the 3 member commission - Friday 12/06/2020]

USP-Council[The USP Council during a meeting last year]

The report states that the investigation was carried out on an evidential basis, with allegations or assertions being traced through to documentary evidence.

However, due to the level and/or quality of documentation retained by the USP, this wasn’t always possible.

As a result, BDO was not able to substantiate a number of the allegations.

BDO’s view was that a majority of the decisions investigated were made within the boundaries of the Vice Chancellor’s Ordinance.

However, it said when critically analysed, the rationale for many of the decisions taken is unclear. BDO also stated that it was of the view that further investigation is required and a number of policies and ordinances require significant alignment and stronger oversight from the Executive Committee and Council.

The independent investigation report also noted that similar themes and control weaknesses were identified by the USP’s internal audit service provider over the past few years.

It states that these Human Resources and payroll concerns were reported in accordance with USP’s standard internal audit reporting process across three reports.

BDO Auckland says the conclusions within these reports point clearly to a need for greater oversight, control and management of the HR and payroll functions at the USP.

It also says that the outcomes of the BDO investigation suggest that the recommendations raised have only been partially implemented, or in some cases, not at all.

BDO Auckland also said that while the allegations highlighted in the paper have arisen in an unfortunate manner, they have raised serious concerns that require attention and action.

It said that these provide USP with an opportunity to reflect and take corrective action that will ultimately improve the culture and quality of education and research at USP.

The investigation focused on allegations made by Vice Chancellor Ahluwalia in 2019.

BDO says those allegations primarily related to human resource and remuneration decisions that were made by the former Vice-Chancellor and the senior management team of the USP.

It said in it’s introduction, objective and scope that the paper put forward 26 allegations of mismanagement by the former Vice-Chancellor of the USP who held office from 2008 to 2018.

BDO says to a lesser extent, the paper implicated other members of the USP’s senior management team as either beneficiaries, or decision makers.

BDO stated that it is of the view that oversight, governance, and control of remuneration is a key weakness across the USP.

It said that this was the key theme throughout the investigation as many of the matters raised in the paper, or the likely motivations behind those matters, relate to remuneration.

It said that the USP’s current policy framework, while extensive, is overly complex, fragmented, outdated, and generally isn’t fit-for-purpose.

The report said that as a result, four remuneration mechanisms have collectively been exploited and have led to significant cash leakage across the USP over a number of years. These mechanisms are inducement allowances, responsibility and acting allowances, bonuses and consultancy agreements. BDO has also recommended a comprehensive structural review of the USP’s human resources function.

The review should focus on building institutional knowledge to drive consistent, efficient policy applications and behaviour.

BDO has also recommended an urgent review of the USP’s core human resources policies, procedures, and forms.

The focus of this review should be on simplifying policies to drive more efficient, transparent, and equitable behaviour.

There are currently three ordinances, 58 policies, four procedures, and 38 forms stored in the human resources section of the USP Policy Library.

The BDO report also noted that USP has a significant reliance on employees who have reached retirement age.

BDO noted that numerous senior academic and professional positions are held by staff members who have reached retirement age.

It said that in itself, this is not an issue however, BDO also noted that many of these individuals had been appointed in those roles numerous times after reaching retirement age.

It said this would suggest a lack of succession planning across these senior roles.

Click here for BDO report 

Allegations of Fiji attempting to nationalise USP are untrue – Akbar - Wednesday 10/06/2020

Fiji Wants USP Governance Issues to be Resolved Quickly - By Vijay Narayan

Akbar-sm

Minister for Education Rosy Akbar says the Fijian Government is concerned about governance issues at the University of the South Pacific in light of a number of anomalies found by the USP Audit Team and wants the issues resolved quickly.

Akbar has expressed concerns about USP, which continues to be distracted from its core function of delivering quality teaching and education needed by our Pacific countries to build strong economies and prosper.

She also urged students to remain focused on what is most important - their education.

Akbar says as the host country with the largest number of enrolled students, and by far the largest contributor from the Pacific member countries, Fiji would like to see the matters resolved quickly through the internal mechanisms of the university. She says it is clear, after studying all the material there is a need to address the governance anomalies which have disrupted the transparency at the university.

Akbar says a university is a place of learning and they must set an example to students, our future leaders, that any breach of rules will be investigated using the proper channels with action taken if and as appropriate. The Fijian Education Minister says a large number of complaints against the Vice-Chancellor have been brought to the attention of the USP Audit Team prompting the investigation.

Akbar says the quantity and nature of the complaints were very serious and cannot be ignored.

She says the Vice Chancellor has been suspended while investigations are taking place, as per the procedure.

Akbar also stresses that allegations of Fiji attempting to nationalise USP is untrue and quite frankly uncalled for.

She says they want to ensure that USP students, including those from Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tonga, Samoa, Nauru and other countries do not fall victim to issues created by bad governance.

The Education Minister says all USP Council members should be advocating for good governance and transparency and be an example to students.

Australia is concerned and wants a special meeting of USP Council

By Semi Turaga [Thursday 11/06/2020]

Australia-s-Foreign-Minister-Marise-Payne

Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne says they are concerned about leadership issues at the University of the South Pacific.

She says they have called for a special meeting of the USP Council.

Payne adds that it is important to find an acceptable solution for all Pacific countries, that is in the best interests of the university and education in the region.

She further says that Australia recognises USP as an important and highly valued regional institution and tertiary provider in the Pacific. Payne says Australia is a longstanding partner of USP and they are strongly committed to supporting education in the region.


No one from Fiji should interfere in VC Ahluwalia’s work - Fong - Tuesday 09/06/2020

Staff and students supporting Ahluwalia meet to discuss next step - By: Vijay Narayan

Fong

Staff and students of the University of the South Pacific supporting the now suspended Vice-Chancellor, Pal Ahluwalia say that USP should be maintained as a regional institution and no one from Fiji should be interfering in trying to get Ahluwalia out.

Staff member and spokesperson Elizabeth Read Fong says they know that the Deputy Pro-Chancellor, Aloma Johansson has written to Ahluwalia on behalf of the Executive Committee that he is suspended on full pay pending investigations.

Fong also says that this message of Ahluwalia’s suspension should be conveyed to all the USP Council members from the region as the President of Nauru who is the next Pro-Chancellor, the governments of Samoa, Tonga and New Zealand have earlier said that Ahluwalia should be left alone to do his job and to assess him fairly.

She confirms the staff and students supporting Ahluwalia will have lawful protests however more details will be revealed later.

Fong also says they have a strong belief that Pal Ahluwalia is being targetted after he exposed serious allegations relating to governance practices when the previous Vice-Chancellor was in office.

She says the staff and students supporting Ahluwalia hope those people who are facing the allegations are not appointed as Acting Vice-Chancellor.

Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum had said yesterday that the Fijian government is concerned about governance issues at the University of the South Pacific after reports emerged that the university’s Executive Committee was meeting to decide on the future of Pal Ahluwalia.

Sayed-Khaiyum confirms that the Audit Committee has highlighted a number of anomalies and the Minister for Education, Rosy Akbar attended the Executive Committee meeting.




USP Special Council meeting still underway at Laucala Campus

By Vijay Narayan, Naveel Krishant, Semi Turaga
Friday 19/06/2020
USP Pro-Chancellor Winston Thompson leaving the meeting venue.

The University of the South Pacific’s Special Council Meeting is still underway this hour and we have received confirmation that a decision is yet to be made on the issue brought up by the Nauru President that the USP Council members determine whether the decision of the Executive Committee to suspend the Vice Chancellor Pal Ahluwalia was made in bad faith and should be overturned.

Pro Chancellor Winston Thompson left the meeting venue in the last hour to allow for discussions to continue. We have received information that Thompson has stepped out as the Council discusses the Executive Committee’s decision to suspend Professor Ahluwalia.

There is increased security presence at the meeting venue of the USP Special Council at the Laucala Campus.

usapapa

The Special Council meeting has been called to look into the suspension of Professor Ahluwalia pending independent investigations into material misconduct.

Fijian Education Minister, Rosy Akbar is part of the meeting.

The meeting started at about 9 o’çlock this morning.

USP’s Acting Vice Chancellor Professor Derrick Armstrong has pleaded with staff and students to exercise good judgement and common sense so as to not bring disrepute to the university.

In an email to staff and students, Professor Armstrong has told them that as is the practice, the Council will convey the outcome of the meeting to them and they should wait for that.

He has urged the staff to act responsibly irrespective of their views on the governance of USP and ensure that they provide the students a peaceful environment as they sit for their exams.

He further says it has been a difficult time for all of them over the last few weeks but they have been strong in their commitment to ensure that the core work of USP has continued with minimal disruptions.

The Pro-Chancellor of USP Winston Thompson had earlier stressed that the university’s Executive Committee acted within its powers to look into allegations of material misconduct against Vice-Chancellor Pal Ahluwalia and to suspend him pending an independent investigation.

Thompson says claims that the Executive Committee acted illegally last Monday, are incorrect.

Thompson had said if you read the statutes and ordinance, it gives specific powers to the Executive Committee to do what it did.

He stressed that during an emergency, the Executive Committee may act on behalf of the USP Council and then report back to the Council.

Suspended USP Vice-Chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia had said last Monday that this evil has done the university so much damage.

Ahluwalia says he has done nothing wrong and he will fight any allegations lawfully. He says there have been nine investigations against him already.

Stay with us for developments on the USP’s Special Council meeting.

President of Nauru and incoming Chancellor of USP wants special Council meeting to be held this -  By Naveel Krishant

Saturday 13/06/2020

6587955915ee43097ca4b33deb2dd5  

The President of Nauru and the incoming Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific, Lionel Aingimea says they require that the special Council meeting be scheduled for 10am this Wednesday and not Friday.

In a letter to USP Pro-Chancellor, Winston Thompson, Aingimea says that the matter must be dealt with at the first possible opportunity.

He also says for transparency and security reasons, the Zoom meeting should not be compromised by having USP staff supporting this meeting.

Aingimea adds they will organize an independent organization or Australia or New Zealand to initiate the meeting.

Earlier

We acted within our powers – Winston Thompson -  Thursday 11/06/2020

VC Ahluwalia’s suspension is in no way linked to the allegations he brought up last year – USP - By Vijay Narayan

Thompson[ Pro-Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific Winston Thompson]

The Pro-Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific Winston Thompson had stressed on Thursday that the university’s Executive Committee acted within its powers to look into allegations of material misconduct against Vice-Chancellor Pal Ahluwalia and to suspend him pending an independent investigation.

Thompson says claims that the Executive Committee acted illegally on Monday, are incorrect.

Thompson had said if you read the statutes and ordinance, it gives specific powers to the Executive Committee to do what it did.

He stressed that during an emergency, the Executive Committee may act on behalf of the USP Council and then report back to the Council.

Thompson had said the allegations against Ahluwalia will be thoroughly investigated so that the facts will come forward and hopefully it will be sufficiently clear, and it will point to one way or the other.

He adds that an independent team will be chosen to conduct the investigation.

Thompson had also stressed that the allegations against Ahluwalia is separate from the report he had prepared last year.

I have done nothing wrong and will fight any allegations lawfully- Ahluwalia 

By Naveel Krishant - [Tuesday 09/06/2020]

Ahluwalia-02-sm[Suspended USP Vice-Chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia]

Suspended USP Vice-Chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia had said on Monday that this evil has done the university so much damage.

Ahluwalia says he has done nothing wrong and he will fight any allegations lawfully. He says there have been nine investigations against him already.

3 member commission still working on tightening up governance issues at USP - Friday 12/06/2020

Greater oversight, control and management of the HR and payroll functions needed at the USP – BDO report - By Vijay Narayan and Naveel Krishant

usp-CAMPUS

USP Pro-Chancellor, Winston Thompson stresses that the 3 member commission that was appointed to look into issues raised in the BDO report following the allegations raised by USP Vice Chancellor, Pal Ahluwalia last year, are still working on tightening up governance issues at the university.

Thompson says when the BDO report was tabled to the USP Council last year, it had made various decisions which included the setting up of a committee of 3 Ministers which was tasked to follow up on the BDO report particularly as it related to governance weaknesses within USP.

He says the Committee of 3 Ministers appointed a Commission of 3 who are still working on going through governance instruments, policies and procedures to try to tighten up where it seemed that they were weak. The Committee consists of Professor Satish Chand, Professor Jenni Lightowers and Graeme McNally.

Thompson says he has been informed that the BDO report has been leaked when it should have been kept confidential.

The BDO report arose from the allegations of misconduct that USP Vice-Chancellor Ahluwalia had made against the previous management team.

Thompson says the allegations were considered serious but it was incomplete and more information was needed to establish whether a decision was needed to be made by the Executive Committee.

Thompson says the allegations were submitted by Ahluwalia to the Executive Committee in March.

He adds the committee decided then to ask the University’s Director of Audit, Assurance and Compliance to investigate and get information from those who were being accused in the document and come back to the committee in the next meeting to give a report.

Thompson says in the next meeting the Director said that she decided to hand this to FICAC.

He says he was informed in May that the report was on Facebook.

Thompson says one week later when the Council met in Vanuatu and because of the publicity, the Council was alarmed and so they then were promoted into setting up a special investigation and from which the BDO investigation took place.

The committee of 3 ministers comprising of Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa Fiame Naomi Mata'afa (Chairperson), Prime Minister of Cook Islands Henry Puna and Fijian Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum had resolved towards the end of last year that a Summary of the Independent Investigation Report by BDO Auckland should be made publicly available.

BDO report into USP that is being looked at by the 3 member commission - Friday 12/06/2020]

USP-Council[The USP Council during a meeting last year]

The report states that the investigation was carried out on an evidential basis, with allegations or assertions being traced through to documentary evidence.

However, due to the level and/or quality of documentation retained by the USP, this wasn’t always possible.

As a result, BDO was not able to substantiate a number of the allegations.

BDO’s view was that a majority of the decisions investigated were made within the boundaries of the Vice Chancellor’s Ordinance.

However, it said when critically analysed, the rationale for many of the decisions taken is unclear. BDO also stated that it was of the view that further investigation is required and a number of policies and ordinances require significant alignment and stronger oversight from the Executive Committee and Council.

The independent investigation report also noted that similar themes and control weaknesses were identified by the USP’s internal audit service provider over the past few years.

It states that these Human Resources and payroll concerns were reported in accordance with USP’s standard internal audit reporting process across three reports.

BDO Auckland says the conclusions within these reports point clearly to a need for greater oversight, control and management of the HR and payroll functions at the USP.

It also says that the outcomes of the BDO investigation suggest that the recommendations raised have only been partially implemented, or in some cases, not at all.

BDO Auckland also said that while the allegations highlighted in the paper have arisen in an unfortunate manner, they have raised serious concerns that require attention and action.

It said that these provide USP with an opportunity to reflect and take corrective action that will ultimately improve the culture and quality of education and research at USP.

The investigation focused on allegations made by Vice Chancellor Ahluwalia in 2019.

BDO says those allegations primarily related to human resource and remuneration decisions that were made by the former Vice-Chancellor and the senior management team of the USP.

It said in it’s introduction, objective and scope that the paper put forward 26 allegations of mismanagement by the former Vice-Chancellor of the USP who held office from 2008 to 2018.

BDO says to a lesser extent, the paper implicated other members of the USP’s senior management team as either beneficiaries, or decision makers.

BDO stated that it is of the view that oversight, governance, and control of remuneration is a key weakness across the USP.

It said that this was the key theme throughout the investigation as many of the matters raised in the paper, or the likely motivations behind those matters, relate to remuneration.

It said that the USP’s current policy framework, while extensive, is overly complex, fragmented, outdated, and generally isn’t fit-for-purpose.

The report said that as a result, four remuneration mechanisms have collectively been exploited and have led to significant cash leakage across the USP over a number of years. These mechanisms are inducement allowances, responsibility and acting allowances, bonuses and consultancy agreements. BDO has also recommended a comprehensive structural review of the USP’s human resources function.

The review should focus on building institutional knowledge to drive consistent, efficient policy applications and behaviour.

BDO has also recommended an urgent review of the USP’s core human resources policies, procedures, and forms.

The focus of this review should be on simplifying policies to drive more efficient, transparent, and equitable behaviour.

There are currently three ordinances, 58 policies, four procedures, and 38 forms stored in the human resources section of the USP Policy Library.

The BDO report also noted that USP has a significant reliance on employees who have reached retirement age.

BDO noted that numerous senior academic and professional positions are held by staff members who have reached retirement age.

It said that in itself, this is not an issue however, BDO also noted that many of these individuals had been appointed in those roles numerous times after reaching retirement age.

It said this would suggest a lack of succession planning across these senior roles.

Click here for BDO report 

Allegations of Fiji attempting to nationalise USP are untrue – Akbar - Wednesday 10/06/2020

Fiji Wants USP Governance Issues to be Resolved Quickly - By Vijay Narayan

Akbar-sm

Minister for Education Rosy Akbar says the Fijian Government is concerned about governance issues at the University of the South Pacific in light of a number of anomalies found by the USP Audit Team and wants the issues resolved quickly.

Akbar has expressed concerns about USP, which continues to be distracted from its core function of delivering quality teaching and education needed by our Pacific countries to build strong economies and prosper.

She also urged students to remain focused on what is most important - their education.

Akbar says as the host country with the largest number of enrolled students, and by far the largest contributor from the Pacific member countries, Fiji would like to see the matters resolved quickly through the internal mechanisms of the university. She says it is clear, after studying all the material there is a need to address the governance anomalies which have disrupted the transparency at the university.

Akbar says a university is a place of learning and they must set an example to students, our future leaders, that any breach of rules will be investigated using the proper channels with action taken if and as appropriate. The Fijian Education Minister says a large number of complaints against the Vice-Chancellor have been brought to the attention of the USP Audit Team prompting the investigation.

Akbar says the quantity and nature of the complaints were very serious and cannot be ignored.

She says the Vice Chancellor has been suspended while investigations are taking place, as per the procedure.

Akbar also stresses that allegations of Fiji attempting to nationalise USP is untrue and quite frankly uncalled for.

She says they want to ensure that USP students, including those from Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tonga, Samoa, Nauru and other countries do not fall victim to issues created by bad governance.

The Education Minister says all USP Council members should be advocating for good governance and transparency and be an example to students.

Australia is concerned and wants a special meeting of USP Council

By Semi Turaga [Thursday 11/06/2020]

Australia-s-Foreign-Minister-Marise-Payne

Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne says they are concerned about leadership issues at the University of the South Pacific.

She says they have called for a special meeting of the USP Council.

Payne adds that it is important to find an acceptable solution for all Pacific countries, that is in the best interests of the university and education in the region.

She further says that Australia recognises USP as an important and highly valued regional institution and tertiary provider in the Pacific. Payne says Australia is a longstanding partner of USP and they are strongly committed to supporting education in the region.


No one from Fiji should interfere in VC Ahluwalia’s work - Fong - Tuesday 09/06/2020

Staff and students supporting Ahluwalia meet to discuss next step - By: Vijay Narayan

Fong

Staff and students of the University of the South Pacific supporting the now suspended Vice-Chancellor, Pal Ahluwalia say that USP should be maintained as a regional institution and no one from Fiji should be interfering in trying to get Ahluwalia out.

Staff member and spokesperson Elizabeth Read Fong says they know that the Deputy Pro-Chancellor, Aloma Johansson has written to Ahluwalia on behalf of the Executive Committee that he is suspended on full pay pending investigations.

Fong also says that this message of Ahluwalia’s suspension should be conveyed to all the USP Council members from the region as the President of Nauru who is the next Pro-Chancellor, the governments of Samoa, Tonga and New Zealand have earlier said that Ahluwalia should be left alone to do his job and to assess him fairly.

She confirms the staff and students supporting Ahluwalia will have lawful protests however more details will be revealed later.

Fong also says they have a strong belief that Pal Ahluwalia is being targetted after he exposed serious allegations relating to governance practices when the previous Vice-Chancellor was in office.

She says the staff and students supporting Ahluwalia hope those people who are facing the allegations are not appointed as Acting Vice-Chancellor.

Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum had said yesterday that the Fijian government is concerned about governance issues at the University of the South Pacific after reports emerged that the university’s Executive Committee was meeting to decide on the future of Pal Ahluwalia.

Sayed-Khaiyum confirms that the Audit Committee has highlighted a number of anomalies and the Minister for Education, Rosy Akbar attended the Executive Committee meeting.



Confidential USP Council papers leaked online

By Semi Turaga
Thursday 18/06/2020
USP Pro-Chancellor Winston Thompson

Confidential papers related to the planned meeting of the USP Council tomorrow have been leaked online.

The USP Council Secretariat says these confidential papers were circulated to members of the USP Council on Tuesday night.

It says the confidential papers has been published by journalist Michael Field in the Facebook group - Pacific Newsroom.

In a statement, the USP Council Secretariat says this is highly regrettable and a serious lapse of the person’s integrity and fiduciary responsibilities.

It says this can have only been done to further aggravate a sensitive situation.

USP Pro-Chancellor, Winston Thompson has also thanked the President of Nauru and incoming Chancellor Lionel Aingimea for agreeing that the meeting tomorrow goes ahead, resolving the impasse of the past week.

The USP Council Secretariat says highly derogatory comments being expressed in the media by influential thought leaders in recent days have been made without the commentators trying to obtain the views of the Council Chair so that a more informed comment can be made.

The statement says these comments have also perpetuated misinformation and disinformation.

It says this has been an unfortunate feature of press statements in the recent past.

The USP Council Secretariat also says a request to the USP Staff Unions and Student Association to meet has been rejected.

Thompson is requesting all parties for calm and careful consideration of all the facts so that an informed decision can be reached through the established procedures.




USP Special Council Meeting to take place on Friday

By Vijay Narayan
Tuesday 16/06/2020
The President of Nauru and Incoming Chancellor of USP, Lionel Aingimea (Left), Suspended Vice Chancellor Pal Ahluwalia (Right)

The University of the South Pacific’s Special Council Meeting to look into the suspension of Vice Chancellor Pal Ahluwalia pending independent investigations into material misconduct, will be held on Friday as confirmed by the Pro Chancellor Winston Thompson.

The President of Nauru and Incoming Chancellor of USP, Lionel Aingimea who had earlier said that the USP Council should meet tomorrow, has today said that as Thompson has arranged a meeting for Friday, it can proceed as communicated for Friday.

Aingimea has also written to Thompson saying that with respect, he reminds Thompson that the university is owned by member countries for the benefit of the people and the needs and wellbeing of the communities in the South Pacific.

He says the education of our students is a matter of vital importance to all regional leaders.

Aingimea says the agenda for Friday’s meeting is that the USP Council members determine whether the decision of the Executive Committee to suspend the Vice Chancellor was made in bad faith and should be overturned.

The Nauru President has also said in his letter to Thompson that as the incoming Chancellor of USP, he notes that Thompson has failed in his duty to report to the Council on the decision process adopted by the Executive Committee and how those decisions were made.

Thompson had written to Aingimea yesterday saying that with respect, the Nauru President does not have the powers to schedule a Council meeting for tomorrow when a meeting has already been scheduled for Friday.

Fijivillage has received information Fijian Education Minister, Rosy Akbar and other Fiji members on the USP Council had already confirmed to attend the Friday meeting.

Akbar has already said that Fiji wants the governance issues addressed and independent investigations should be held.


USP Senior Librarian interviewed and released for allegedly breaching COVID-19 restrictions

By Vijay Narayan
Tuesday 16/06/2020
The University of the South Pacific’s Senior Librarian, Elizabeth Read Fong [Image: USP SA]

Police confirm that the University of the South Pacific’s Senior Librarian, Elizabeth Read Fong has been interviewed and released for allegedly breaching the COVID-19 restrictions, and they will not comment on any allegations of intimidation made by certain groups. Fong walked into the CID office in Toorak at around 10 o’çlock this morning and was interviewed for over 1 hour.

Police spokesperson, Ana Naisoro says the CID had requested Fong to come in and she was questioned for the alleged breach. Fong has been a staff representative speaking out against USP Vice Chancellor Pal Ahluwalia’s suspension pending investigations.

She was also part of the group of staff and students that had gathered at USP in support of Ahluwalia last Monday. Meanwhile the NGO Coalition on Human Rights says it is disturbed by the recent conduct of the Police in handling student and staff protests at USP.

They say Fong and then another staff Ilima Finiasi were questioned today.

Coalition Chair, Nalini Singh says students and staff are being continuously threatened for airing their concerns around the Vice Chancellor’s suspension and other worrying allegations of corruption at USP. Singh says the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions is not an excuse to curtail human rights, freedom of speech and peaceful assembly.

National Federation Party President, Pio Tikodaudua says the alleged harassment, intimidation and questioning of USP staff and students is disrupting education of students as well as work of the staff, and causing them mental anguish when they are sitting for their exams. Tikoduadua says the questioning of Elizabeth Fong by Police is yet another example of Fiji fast turning into a police state with scant regard for the rights of people and their fundamental freedoms of speech and assembly. He says Fong is renowned for her principles and ethics.

Tikoduadua says her desire for good governance, transparency, accountability and to uphold and cherish academic freedom is renowned and well respected. He says they deplore Police for using COVID-19 social distancing restrictions to harass and intimidate USP staff and students.

Tikoduadua says this is ridiculous and nonsense when no social distancing is being practiced in supermarkets, municipal markets, buses and other public transport, restaurants, malls and on the streets. Fiji Labour Party Leader, Mahendra Chaudhry says the questioning and harassment of Fong is abuse of Police powers. Chaudhry has branded the COVID-19 restrictions as a farce.

He says the social distancing requirement is hardly observed anywhere whether it be the bus stand, supermarkets, municipal markets, retail outlets or by the people who attended the opening by the Prime Minister of the Rakiraki Market a fortnight ago and the Namoli Village reclamation wall last week.

The FLP Leader further says that there is no further need for the social distancing restrictions and the 10pm curfew if Fiji is indeed COVID-19 free. He claims the restrictions are becoming instruments of persecution for critics of the government. All COVID-19 health guidelines remain in place and Police have said that they will not make any comments on all these statements.



President of Nauru and incoming Chancellor of USP stresses that Special Council Meeting will be held this Wednesday

By Vijay Narayan
Monday 15/06/2020
The President of Nauru and the incoming Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific Lionel Aingimea. [image: Nauru Media News]

The President of Nauru and the incoming Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific, Lionel Aingimea has now stressed in a letter to USP Pro Chancellor, Winston Thompson that the university’s Special Council Meeting will be held via Zoom at 10am this Wednesday.

Aingimea has told Thompson in a letter that as the secretariat has failed to organise the meeting, Ainigimea and others in the council will undertake to provide an agenda on a Zoom link and any additional papers for the meeting by tomorrow morning.

The Nauruan President also says that he has received confirmation that the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade will host the Zoom meeting this Wednesday. Aingimea also says for transparency and security reasons, the Zoom meeting should not be compromised by having USP staff supporting this meeting. He had confirmed they will organize an independent organization or Australia or New Zealand to initiate the meeting.

He also says that the matter must be dealt with at the first possible opportunity.

Aingimea also told Thompson that since he has not formally amended the date of the Special Council Meeting to this Wednesday, they are making the Council members aware that the meeting will go ahead at 10am Wednesday.

We acted within our powers – Winston Thompson -  Thursday 11/06/2020

VC Ahluwalia’s suspension is in no way linked to the allegations he brought up last year – USP - By Vijay Narayan

Thompson Pro-Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific Winston Thompson

The Pro-Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific Winston Thompson had stressed on Thursday that the university’s Executive Committee acted within its powers to look into allegations of material misconduct against Vice-Chancellor Pal Ahluwalia and to suspend him pending an independent investigation.

Thompson says claims that the Executive Committee acted illegally on Monday, are incorrect.

Thompson had said if you read the statutes and ordinance, it gives specific powers to the Executive Committee to do what it did.

He stressed that during an emergency, the Executive Committee may act on behalf of the USP Council and then report back to the Council.

Thompson had said the allegations against Ahluwalia will be thoroughly investigated so that the facts will come forward and hopefully it will be sufficiently clear, and it will point to one way or the other.

He adds that an independent team will be chosen to conduct the investigation.

Thompson had also stressed that the allegations against Ahluwalia is separate from the report he had prepared last year.

I have done nothing wrong and will fight any allegations lawfully- Ahluwalia 

By Naveel Krishant - [Tuesday 09/06/2020]

Ahluwalia-02-smSuspended USP Vice-Chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia

Suspended USP Vice-Chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia had said on Monday that this evil has done the university so much damage.

Ahluwalia says he has done nothing wrong and he will fight any allegations lawfully. He says there have been nine investigations against him already.


3 member commission still working on tightening up governance issues at USP - Friday 12/06/2020

Greater oversight, control and management of the HR and payroll functions needed at the USP – BDO report - By Vijay Narayan and Naveel Krishant

usp-CAMPUS

USP Pro-Chancellor, Winston Thompson stresses that the 3 member commission that was appointed to look into issues raised in the BDO report following the allegations raised by USP Vice Chancellor, Pal Ahluwalia last year, are still working on tightening up governance issues at the university.

Thompson says when the BDO report was tabled to the USP Council last year, it had made various decisions which included the setting up of a committee of 3 Ministers which was tasked to follow up on the BDO report particularly as it related to governance weaknesses within USP.

He says the Committee of 3 Ministers appointed a Commission of 3 who are still working on going through governance instruments, policies and procedures to try to tighten up where it seemed that they were weak. The Committee consists of Professor Satish Chand, Professor Jenni Lightowers and Graeme McNally.

Thompson says he has been informed that the BDO report has been leaked when it should have been kept confidential.

The BDO report arose from the allegations of misconduct that USP Vice-Chancellor Ahluwalia had made against the previous management team.

Thompson says the allegations were considered serious but it was incomplete and more information was needed to establish whether a decision was needed to be made by the Executive Committee.

Thompson says the allegations were submitted by Ahluwalia to the Executive Committee in March.

He adds the committee decided then to ask the University’s Director of Audit, Assurance and Compliance to investigate and get information from those who were being accused in the document and come back to the committee in the next meeting to give a report.

Thompson says in the next meeting the Director said that she decided to hand this to FICAC.

He says he was informed in May that the report was on Facebook.

Thompson says one week later when the Council met in Vanuatu and because of the publicity, the Council was alarmed and so they then were promoted into setting up a special investigation and from which the BDO investigation took place.

The committee of 3 ministers comprising of Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa Fiame Naomi Mata'afa (Chairperson), Prime Minister of Cook Islands Henry Puna and Fijian Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum had resolved towards the end of last year that a Summary of the Independent Investigation Report by BDO Auckland should be made publicly available.


BDO report into USP that is being looked at by the 3 member commission [Friday 12/06/2020]

USP-Council[The USP Council during a meeting last year]

The report states that the investigation was carried out on an evidential basis, with allegations or assertions being traced through to documentary evidence.

However, due to the level and/or quality of documentation retained by the USP, this wasn’t always possible.

As a result, BDO was not able to substantiate a number of the allegations.

BDO’s view was that a majority of the decisions investigated were made within the boundaries of the Vice Chancellor’s Ordinance.

However, it said when critically analysed, the rationale for many of the decisions taken is unclear. BDO also stated that it was of the view that further investigation is required and a number of policies and ordinances require significant alignment and stronger oversight from the Executive Committee and Council.

The independent investigation report also noted that similar themes and control weaknesses were identified by the USP’s internal audit service provider over the past few years.

It states that these Human Resources and payroll concerns were reported in accordance with USP’s standard internal audit reporting process across three reports.

BDO Auckland says the conclusions within these reports point clearly to a need for greater oversight, control and management of the HR and payroll functions at the USP.

It also says that the outcomes of the BDO investigation suggest that the recommendations raised have only been partially implemented, or in some cases, not at all.

BDO Auckland also said that while the allegations highlighted in the paper have arisen in an unfortunate manner, they have raised serious concerns that require attention and action.

It said that these provide USP with an opportunity to reflect and take corrective action that will ultimately improve the culture and quality of education and research at USP.

The investigation focused on allegations made by Vice Chancellor Ahluwalia in 2019.

BDO says those allegations primarily related to human resource and remuneration decisions that were made by the former Vice-Chancellor and the senior management team of the USP.

It said in it’s introduction, objective and scope that the paper put forward 26 allegations of mismanagement by the former Vice-Chancellor of the USP who held office from 2008 to 2018.

BDO says to a lesser extent, the paper implicated other members of the USP’s senior management team as either beneficiaries, or decision makers.

BDO stated that it is of the view that oversight, governance, and control of remuneration is a key weakness across the USP.

It said that this was the key theme throughout the investigation as many of the matters raised in the paper, or the likely motivations behind those matters, relate to remuneration.

It said that the USP’s current policy framework, while extensive, is overly complex, fragmented, outdated, and generally isn’t fit-for-purpose.

The report said that as a result, four remuneration mechanisms have collectively been exploited and have led to significant cash leakage across the USP over a number of years. These mechanisms are inducement allowances, responsibility and acting allowances, bonuses and consultancy agreements. BDO has also recommended a comprehensive structural review of the USP’s human resources function.

The review should focus on building institutional knowledge to drive consistent, efficient policy applications and behaviour.

BDO has also recommended an urgent review of the USP’s core human resources policies, procedures, and forms.

The focus of this review should be on simplifying policies to drive more efficient, transparent, and equitable behaviour.

There are currently three ordinances, 58 policies, four procedures, and 38 forms stored in the human resources section of the USP Policy Library.

The BDO report also noted that USP has a significant reliance on employees who have reached retirement age.

BDO noted that numerous senior academic and professional positions are held by staff members who have reached retirement age.

It said that in itself, this is not an issue however, BDO also noted that many of these individuals had been appointed in those roles numerous times after reaching retirement age.

It said this would suggest a lack of succession planning across these senior roles.

Click here for full BDO report
Click here for USP letter to release BDO report

Allegations of Fiji attempting to nationalise USP are untrue – Akbar - Wednesday 10/06/2020

Fiji Wants USP Governance Issues to be Resolved Quickly - By Vijay Narayan

Akbar-sm

Minister for Education Rosy Akbar says the Fijian Government is concerned about governance issues at the University of the South Pacific in light of a number of anomalies found by the USP Audit Team and wants the issues resolved quickly.

Akbar has expressed concerns about USP, which continues to be distracted from its core function of delivering quality teaching and education needed by our Pacific countries to build strong economies and prosper.

She also urged students to remain focused on what is most important - their education.

Akbar says as the host country with the largest number of enrolled students, and by far the largest contributor from the Pacific member countries, Fiji would like to see the matters resolved quickly through the internal mechanisms of the university. She says it is clear, after studying all the material there is a need to address the governance anomalies which have disrupted the transparency at the university.

Akbar says a university is a place of learning and they must set an example to students, our future leaders, that any breach of rules will be investigated using the proper channels with action taken if and as appropriate. The Fijian Education Minister says a large number of complaints against the Vice-Chancellor have been brought to the attention of the USP Audit Team prompting the investigation.

Akbar says the quantity and nature of the complaints were very serious and cannot be ignored.

She says the Vice-Chancellor has been suspended while investigations are taking place, as per the procedure.

Akbar also stresses that allegations of Fiji attempting to nationalise USP is untrue and quite frankly uncalled for.

She says they want to ensure that USP students, including those from Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tonga, Samoa, Nauru and other countries do not fall victim to issues created by bad governance.

The Education Minister says all USP Council members should be advocating for good governance and transparency and be an example to students.

Australia is concerned and wants a special meeting of USP Council

By Semi Turaga [Thursday 11/06/2020]

Australia-s-Foreign-Minister-Marise-Payne

Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne says they are concerned about leadership issues at the University of the South Pacific.

She says they have called for a special meeting of the USP Council.

Payne adds that it is important to find an acceptable solution for all Pacific countries, that is in the best interests of the university and education in the region.

She further says that Australia recognises USP as an important and highly valued regional institution and tertiary provider in the Pacific. Payne says Australia is a longstanding partner of USP and they are strongly committed to supporting education in the region.





USP Senior Librarian interviewed and released for allegedly breaching COVID-19 restrictions

By Vijay Narayan
Tuesday 16/06/2020
The University of the South Pacific’s Senior Librarian, Elizabeth Read Fong [Image: USP SA]

Police confirm that the University of the South Pacific’s Senior Librarian, Elizabeth Read Fong has been interviewed and released for allegedly breaching the COVID-19 restrictions, and they will not comment on any allegations of intimidation made by certain groups. Fong walked into the CID office in Toorak at around 10 o’çlock this morning and was interviewed for over 1 hour.

Police spokesperson, Ana Naisoro says the CID had requested Fong to come in and she was questioned for the alleged breach. Fong has been a staff representative speaking out against USP Vice Chancellor Pal Ahluwalia’s suspension pending investigations.

She was also part of the group of staff and students that had gathered at USP in support of Ahluwalia last Monday. Meanwhile the NGO Coalition on Human Rights says it is disturbed by the recent conduct of the Police in handling student and staff protests at USP.

They say Fong and then another staff Ilima Finiasi were questioned today.

Coalition Chair, Nalini Singh says students and staff are being continuously threatened for airing their concerns around the Vice Chancellor’s suspension and other worrying allegations of corruption at USP. Singh says the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions is not an excuse to curtail human rights, freedom of speech and peaceful assembly.

National Federation Party President, Pio Tikodaudua says the alleged harassment, intimidation and questioning of USP staff and students is disrupting education of students as well as work of the staff, and causing them mental anguish when they are sitting for their exams. Tikoduadua says the questioning of Elizabeth Fong by Police is yet another example of Fiji fast turning into a police state with scant regard for the rights of people and their fundamental freedoms of speech and assembly. He says Fong is renowned for her principles and ethics.

Tikoduadua says her desire for good governance, transparency, accountability and to uphold and cherish academic freedom is renowned and well respected. He says they deplore Police for using COVID-19 social distancing restrictions to harass and intimidate USP staff and students.

Tikoduadua says this is ridiculous and nonsense when no social distancing is being practiced in supermarkets, municipal markets, buses and other public transport, restaurants, malls and on the streets. Fiji Labour Party Leader, Mahendra Chaudhry says the questioning and harassment of Fong is abuse of Police powers. Chaudhry has branded the COVID-19 restrictions as a farce.

He says the social distancing requirement is hardly observed anywhere whether it be the bus stand, supermarkets, municipal markets, retail outlets or by the people who attended the opening by the Prime Minister of the Rakiraki Market a fortnight ago and the Namoli Village reclamation wall last week.

The FLP Leader further says that there is no further need for the social distancing restrictions and the 10pm curfew if Fiji is indeed COVID-19 free. He claims the restrictions are becoming instruments of persecution for critics of the government. All COVID-19 health guidelines remain in place and Police have said that they will not make any comments on all these statements.




I did not tell people to resign if they were uncomfortable working with me at USP – Acting VC Armstrong

By Vijay Narayan
Monday 15/06/2020
University of the South Pacific’s Acting Vice Chancellor Professor Derrick Armstrong

University of the South Pacific’s Acting Vice Chancellor Professor Derrick Armstrong has clarified that he did not tell people to resign if they were uncomfortable working with him at USP.

Professor Armstrong has stated that in this difficult period if people felt that they did not want to continue to be part of the senior management team, that was okay and he would understand.

He says at the press conference he explicitly said that he has not asked anybody to step down.

Professor Armstrong said that he never mentioned the word ‘resign’.

He hopes the media would be fair and just on this matter and correct this anomaly and in future seek clarification on intent in the interest of the public.

Professor Armstrong says he is referring to recent articles in the media suggesting that he had asked the staff at USP to resign. He further says that he regrets to say that the journalists who have written these stories have failed to understand the fine distinction among words and statements.

He says, unfortunately, this inaccurate interpretation of his words was picked up negatively, and repeatedly used on social media.


President of Nauru and incoming Chancellor of USP stresses that Special Council Meeting will be held this Wednesday

By Vijay Narayan
Monday 15/06/2020
The President of Nauru and the incoming Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific Lionel Aingimea. [image: Nauru Media News]

The President of Nauru and the incoming Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific, Lionel Aingimea has now stressed in a letter to USP Pro Chancellor, Winston Thompson that the university’s Special Council Meeting will be held via Zoom at 10am this Wednesday.

Aingimea has told Thompson in a letter that as the secretariat has failed to organise the meeting, Ainigimea and others in the council will undertake to provide an agenda on a Zoom link and any additional papers for the meeting by tomorrow morning.

The Nauruan President also says that he has received confirmation that the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade will host the Zoom meeting this Wednesday. Aingimea also says for transparency and security reasons, the Zoom meeting should not be compromised by having USP staff supporting this meeting. He had confirmed they will organize an independent organization or Australia or New Zealand to initiate the meeting.

He also says that the matter must be dealt with at the first possible opportunity.

Aingimea also told Thompson that since he has not formally amended the date of the Special Council Meeting to this Wednesday, they are making the Council members aware that the meeting will go ahead at 10am Wednesday.

We acted within our powers – Winston Thompson -  Thursday 11/06/2020

VC Ahluwalia’s suspension is in no way linked to the allegations he brought up last year – USP - By Vijay Narayan

Thompson Pro-Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific Winston Thompson

The Pro-Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific Winston Thompson had stressed on Thursday that the university’s Executive Committee acted within its powers to look into allegations of material misconduct against Vice-Chancellor Pal Ahluwalia and to suspend him pending an independent investigation.

Thompson says claims that the Executive Committee acted illegally on Monday, are incorrect.

Thompson had said if you read the statutes and ordinance, it gives specific powers to the Executive Committee to do what it did.

He stressed that during an emergency, the Executive Committee may act on behalf of the USP Council and then report back to the Council.

Thompson had said the allegations against Ahluwalia will be thoroughly investigated so that the facts will come forward and hopefully it will be sufficiently clear, and it will point to one way or the other.

He adds that an independent team will be chosen to conduct the investigation.

Thompson had also stressed that the allegations against Ahluwalia is separate from the report he had prepared last year.

I have done nothing wrong and will fight any allegations lawfully- Ahluwalia 

By Naveel Krishant - [Tuesday 09/06/2020]

Ahluwalia-02-smSuspended USP Vice-Chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia

Suspended USP Vice-Chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia had said on Monday that this evil has done the university so much damage.

Ahluwalia says he has done nothing wrong and he will fight any allegations lawfully. He says there have been nine investigations against him already.


3 member commission still working on tightening up governance issues at USP - Friday 12/06/2020

Greater oversight, control and management of the HR and payroll functions needed at the USP – BDO report - By Vijay Narayan and Naveel Krishant

usp-CAMPUS

USP Pro-Chancellor, Winston Thompson stresses that the 3 member commission that was appointed to look into issues raised in the BDO report following the allegations raised by USP Vice Chancellor, Pal Ahluwalia last year, are still working on tightening up governance issues at the university.

Thompson says when the BDO report was tabled to the USP Council last year, it had made various decisions which included the setting up of a committee of 3 Ministers which was tasked to follow up on the BDO report particularly as it related to governance weaknesses within USP.

He says the Committee of 3 Ministers appointed a Commission of 3 who are still working on going through governance instruments, policies and procedures to try to tighten up where it seemed that they were weak. The Committee consists of Professor Satish Chand, Professor Jenni Lightowers and Graeme McNally.

Thompson says he has been informed that the BDO report has been leaked when it should have been kept confidential.

The BDO report arose from the allegations of misconduct that USP Vice-Chancellor Ahluwalia had made against the previous management team.

Thompson says the allegations were considered serious but it was incomplete and more information was needed to establish whether a decision was needed to be made by the Executive Committee.

Thompson says the allegations were submitted by Ahluwalia to the Executive Committee in March.

He adds the committee decided then to ask the University’s Director of Audit, Assurance and Compliance to investigate and get information from those who were being accused in the document and come back to the committee in the next meeting to give a report.

Thompson says in the next meeting the Director said that she decided to hand this to FICAC.

He says he was informed in May that the report was on Facebook.

Thompson says one week later when the Council met in Vanuatu and because of the publicity, the Council was alarmed and so they then were promoted into setting up a special investigation and from which the BDO investigation took place.

The committee of 3 ministers comprising of Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa Fiame Naomi Mata'afa (Chairperson), Prime Minister of Cook Islands Henry Puna and Fijian Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum had resolved towards the end of last year that a Summary of the Independent Investigation Report by BDO Auckland should be made publicly available.


BDO report into USP that is being looked at by the 3 member commission [Friday 12/06/2020]

USP-Council[The USP Council during a meeting last year]

The report states that the investigation was carried out on an evidential basis, with allegations or assertions being traced through to documentary evidence.

However, due to the level and/or quality of documentation retained by the USP, this wasn’t always possible.

As a result, BDO was not able to substantiate a number of the allegations.

BDO’s view was that a majority of the decisions investigated were made within the boundaries of the Vice Chancellor’s Ordinance.

However, it said when critically analysed, the rationale for many of the decisions taken is unclear. BDO also stated that it was of the view that further investigation is required and a number of policies and ordinances require significant alignment and stronger oversight from the Executive Committee and Council.

The independent investigation report also noted that similar themes and control weaknesses were identified by the USP’s internal audit service provider over the past few years.

It states that these Human Resources and payroll concerns were reported in accordance with USP’s standard internal audit reporting process across three reports.

BDO Auckland says the conclusions within these reports point clearly to a need for greater oversight, control and management of the HR and payroll functions at the USP.

It also says that the outcomes of the BDO investigation suggest that the recommendations raised have only been partially implemented, or in some cases, not at all.

BDO Auckland also said that while the allegations highlighted in the paper have arisen in an unfortunate manner, they have raised serious concerns that require attention and action.

It said that these provide USP with an opportunity to reflect and take corrective action that will ultimately improve the culture and quality of education and research at USP.

The investigation focused on allegations made by Vice Chancellor Ahluwalia in 2019.

BDO says those allegations primarily related to human resource and remuneration decisions that were made by the former Vice-Chancellor and the senior management team of the USP.

It said in it’s introduction, objective and scope that the paper put forward 26 allegations of mismanagement by the former Vice-Chancellor of the USP who held office from 2008 to 2018.

BDO says to a lesser extent, the paper implicated other members of the USP’s senior management team as either beneficiaries, or decision makers.

BDO stated that it is of the view that oversight, governance, and control of remuneration is a key weakness across the USP.

It said that this was the key theme throughout the investigation as many of the matters raised in the paper, or the likely motivations behind those matters, relate to remuneration.

It said that the USP’s current policy framework, while extensive, is overly complex, fragmented, outdated, and generally isn’t fit-for-purpose.

The report said that as a result, four remuneration mechanisms have collectively been exploited and have led to significant cash leakage across the USP over a number of years. These mechanisms are inducement allowances, responsibility and acting allowances, bonuses and consultancy agreements. BDO has also recommended a comprehensive structural review of the USP’s human resources function.

The review should focus on building institutional knowledge to drive consistent, efficient policy applications and behaviour.

BDO has also recommended an urgent review of the USP’s core human resources policies, procedures, and forms.

The focus of this review should be on simplifying policies to drive more efficient, transparent, and equitable behaviour.

There are currently three ordinances, 58 policies, four procedures, and 38 forms stored in the human resources section of the USP Policy Library.

The BDO report also noted that USP has a significant reliance on employees who have reached retirement age.

BDO noted that numerous senior academic and professional positions are held by staff members who have reached retirement age.

It said that in itself, this is not an issue however, BDO also noted that many of these individuals had been appointed in those roles numerous times after reaching retirement age.

It said this would suggest a lack of succession planning across these senior roles.

Click here for full BDO report
Click here for USP letter to release BDO report

Allegations of Fiji attempting to nationalise USP are untrue – Akbar - Wednesday 10/06/2020

Fiji Wants USP Governance Issues to be Resolved Quickly - By Vijay Narayan

Akbar-sm

Minister for Education Rosy Akbar says the Fijian Government is concerned about governance issues at the University of the South Pacific in light of a number of anomalies found by the USP Audit Team and wants the issues resolved quickly.

Akbar has expressed concerns about USP, which continues to be distracted from its core function of delivering quality teaching and education needed by our Pacific countries to build strong economies and prosper.

She also urged students to remain focused on what is most important - their education.

Akbar says as the host country with the largest number of enrolled students, and by far the largest contributor from the Pacific member countries, Fiji would like to see the matters resolved quickly through the internal mechanisms of the university. She says it is clear, after studying all the material there is a need to address the governance anomalies which have disrupted the transparency at the university.

Akbar says a university is a place of learning and they must set an example to students, our future leaders, that any breach of rules will be investigated using the proper channels with action taken if and as appropriate. The Fijian Education Minister says a large number of complaints against the Vice-Chancellor have been brought to the attention of the USP Audit Team prompting the investigation.

Akbar says the quantity and nature of the complaints were very serious and cannot be ignored.

She says the Vice-Chancellor has been suspended while investigations are taking place, as per the procedure.

Akbar also stresses that allegations of Fiji attempting to nationalise USP is untrue and quite frankly uncalled for.

She says they want to ensure that USP students, including those from Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tonga, Samoa, Nauru and other countries do not fall victim to issues created by bad governance.

The Education Minister says all USP Council members should be advocating for good governance and transparency and be an example to students.

Australia is concerned and wants a special meeting of USP Council

By Semi Turaga [Thursday 11/06/2020]

Australia-s-Foreign-Minister-Marise-Payne

Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne says they are concerned about leadership issues at the University of the South Pacific.

She says they have called for a special meeting of the USP Council.

Payne adds that it is important to find an acceptable solution for all Pacific countries, that is in the best interests of the university and education in the region.

She further says that Australia recognises USP as an important and highly valued regional institution and tertiary provider in the Pacific. Payne says Australia is a longstanding partner of USP and they are strongly committed to supporting education in the region.




USP Vice Chancellor’s Office to look into allegations levelled against the USP Students Association

By Vijay Narayan, Naveel Krishant
Thursday 11/06/2020
South Pacific’s Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Derrick Armstrong and USP’s Pro-Chancellor Winston

There is confirmation that the University of the South Pacific’s Acting Vice Chancellor Professor Derrick Armstrong will look at investigating allegations made by a group called the Students Anti-Corruption Alliance against the USP Students Association Federal.

The Students Anti Corruption Alliance had written to the USP Vice Chancellor Pal Ahluwalia regarding the money with USP Students Association as the association gets $6 from each student’s general services fee every semester. The Alliance says according to the association’s website there are over 25,000 members, and they say with $6 per student per semester, the total amount comes to $150,000.

They say this is thousands of dollars and the students want to know how this is being used as they want the funds to be used for the students.

The Students Alliance is also calling for the immediate abolishment of the USP Students Association Federal.

USP’s Pro Chancellor, Winston Thompson says the Vice Chancellor’s Office will look into the allegations.

Acting Vice Chancellor Armstrong says they will have to look at how the funds are being utilised however he says they need to have a calm review of any allegations as there are highly charged sentiments within the student body.

We have raised the question regarding the Students Anti Corruption Alliance’s letter to the USP Students Association. They are expected to comment later.



Acting USP VC looks into why USP Library services are not being provided

By Semi Turaga
Thursday 11/06/2020

USP’s Acting Vice-Chancellor Derrick Armstrong says he has asked his team to provide information to him about what is happening in the Laucala Campus as the USP Library has tweeted that they are not providing any library services in support of suspended Vice-Chancellor Pal Ahluwalia.

Armstrong says he was surprised when he heard about it.

He says he has not had the time to carry out investigations on what is going on but will be able to provide information later.

It is unclear who gave the directive to stop the library services.

USP Library said on Twitter that the building is still open. It further wrote that the book chute is open for book returns and the PC lab is open as usual.

USP Library also says laptops, course textbooks and any other services that require staff interaction are not available.




USPSA does not recognise the Acting USP Vice-Chancellor

By Semi Turaga
Thursday 11/06/2020
Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Derrick Armstrong

The University of the South Pacific Students Association says its stand is clear and it does not recognise the Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Derrick Armstrong who was appointed following the suspension of Professor Pal Ahluwalia.

According to the Association, it was contacted by the Acting Vice Chancellor's office for its student leaders to meet with Professor Armstrong and the USP Pro-Chancellor Winston Thompson.

The USP Students Association says their response was clear as they do not recognise the Acting Vice-Chancellor nor will they meet with someone who has been illegally appointed by the Pro-Chancellor.

There are two representatives of the USP Students Association on the USP Council.

Earlier story - By Dhanjay Deo

The University of the South Pacific Students Association says there will be no need for USP students to boycott exams, classes, and other activities as the USP Council has acted and they have been informed that there will be a special council meeting of the USP which will look into the governing matters of the university.

The Spokesperson of the USP Students Association, Aneet Kumar says they are now expecting official communication regarding the special council meeting of the USP.

Kumar says there are two representatives of the USP Students Association in the USP Council and they will be putting their demands in the council meeting.

The association had written to the USP Council on Tuesday demanding the resignation of the Chair of the USP Council, Winston Thompson, Deputy Chair of Council, Aloma Johansson, and the Chair of the Audit and Risk Committee, Mahmood Khan.





USP Library says they are not providing any services today in support of suspended VC Ahluwalia

By Vijay Narayan
Thursday 11/06/2020
University of the South Pacific Library

The drama continues at University of the South Pacific as the USP Library has tweeted that they are not providing any library services in support of suspended Vice Chancellor Pal Ahluwalia.

We are currently trying to speak to Senior Librarian, Elizabeth Fong.

With this critical university service being affected, questions are being raised on who has given the directive to stop the library services.

Fong has been part of the staff raising concerns about Ahluwalia’s suspension as she has been saying that staff and students supporting want him to be assessed on his Key Performance Indicators, and that there should be no interference.

USP’s Pro Chancellor, Winston Thompson will have a press conference soon.

Stay with us for developments.

USP students do not need to boycott exams or classes as the USP Council has acted – USP SA

By: Dhanjay Deo

10142423825ee07d5acc660780250a

The University of the South Pacific Students Association has today stated that there will be no need for USP students to boycott exams, classes and other activities as the USP Council has acted and they have been informed that there will be a special council meeting of the USP which will look into the governing matters of the university.

The Spokesperson of the USP Students Association, Aneet Kumar says they are now expecting official communication regarding the special council meeting of the USP.

Kumar says there are two representatives of the USP Students Association in the USP Council and they will be putting their demands in the council meeting.

The association had written to the USP Council yesterday demanding for the resignation of the Chair of the USP Council, Winston Thompson, Deputy Chair of Council, Aloma Johansson and the Chair of Audit and Risk Committee, Mahmood Khan.

Allegations of Fiji attempting to nationalise USP are untrue – Akbar

Fiji Wants USP Governance Issues to be Resolved Quickly

Akbar-sm

Minister for Education, Rosy Akbar says the Fijian Government is concerned about governance issues at the University of the South Pacific in light of a number of anomalies found by the USP Audit Team and wants the issues resolved quickly.

Akbar has expressed concerns about USP, which continues to be distracted from its core function of delivering quality teaching and education needed by our Pacific countries to build strong economies and prosper.

She also urged students to remain focused on what is most important - their education.

Akbar says as the host country with the largest number of enrolled students, and by far the largest contributor from the Pacific member countries, Fiji would like to see the matters resolved quickly through the internal mechanisms of the university.

She says it is clear, after studying all the material there is a need to address the governance anomalies which have disrupted the transparency at the university.

Akbar says a university is a place of learning and they must set an example to students, our future leaders, that any breach of rules will be investigated using the proper channels with action taken if and as appropriate.

The Fijian Education Minister says a large number of complaints against the Vice-Chancellor have been brought to the attention of the USP Audit Team prompting the investigation.

Akbar says the quantity and nature of the complaints were very serious and cannot be ignored.

She says the Vice Chancellor has been suspended while investigations are taking place, as per the procedure.

Akbar also stresses that allegations of Fiji attempting to nationalise USP is untrue and quite frankly uncalled for.

She says they want to ensure that USP students, including those from Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tonga, Samoa, Nauru and other countries do not fall victim to issues created by bad governance.

The Education Minister says all USP Council members should be advocating for good governance and transparency and be an example to students.



Australia is concerned and wants special meeting of USP Council

By Semi Turaga
Thursday 11/06/2020
Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne

Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne says they are concerned about leadership issues at the University of the South Pacific.

She says they have called for a special meeting of the USP Council.

Payne adds that it is important to find an acceptable solution for all Pacific countries, that is in the best interests of the university and education in the region.

She further says that Australia recognises USP as an important and highly valued regional institution and tertiary provider in the Pacific. Payne says Australia is a longstanding partner of USP and they are strongly committed to supporting education in the region.



USP students do not need to boycott exams or classes as the USP Council has acted – USP SA

By Dhanjay Deo
Wednesday 10/06/2020

The University of the South Pacific Students Association has today stated that there will be no need for USP students to boycott exams, classes and other activities as the USP Council has acted and they have been informed that there will be a special council meeting of the USP which will look into the governing matters of the university.

The Spokesperson of the USP Students Association, Aneet Kumar says they are now expecting official communication regarding the special council meeting of the USP.

Kumar says there are two representatives of the USP Students Association in the USP Council and they will be putting their demands in the council meeting.

The association had written to the USP Council yesterday demanding for the resignation of the Chair of the USP Council, Winston Thompson, Deputy Chair of Council, Aloma Johansson and the Chair of Audit and Risk Committee, Mahmood Khan.




Allegations of Fiji attempting to nationalise USP are untrue – Akbar

By Vijay Narayan
Wednesday 10/06/2020
Minister for Education Rosy Akbar

Minister for Education, Rosy Akbar says the Fijian Government is concerned about governance issues at the University of the South Pacific in light of a number of anomalies found by the USP Audit Team and wants the issues resolved quickly.

Akbar has expressed concerns about USP, which continues to be distracted from its core function of delivering quality teaching and education needed by our Pacific countries to build strong economies and prosper.

She also urged students to remain focused on what is most important - their education.

Akbar says as the host country with the largest number of enrolled students, and by far the largest contributor from the Pacific member countries, Fiji would like to see the matters resolved quickly through the internal mechanisms of the university.

She says it is clear, after studying all the material there is a need to address the governance anomalies which have disrupted the transparency at the university.

Akbar says a university is a place of learning and they must set an example to students, our future leaders, that any breach of rules will be investigated using the proper channels with action taken if and as appropriate.

The Fijian Education Minister says a large number of complaints against the Vice-Chancellor have been brought to the attention of the USP Audit Team prompting the investigation.

Akbar says the quantity and nature of the complaints were very serious and cannot be ignored.

She says the Vice Chancellor has been suspended while investigations are taking place, as per the procedure.

Akbar also stresses that allegations of Fiji attempting to nationalise USP is untrue and quite frankly uncalled for.

She says they want to ensure that USP students, including those from Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tonga, Samoa, Nauru and other countries do not fall victim to issues created by bad governance.

The Education Minister says all USP Council members should be advocating for good governance and transparency and be an example to students.




Do not shoot the messenger – Mahmood Khan

By Semi Turaga, Naveel Krishant
Tuesday 09/06/2020
Mahmood Khan and Professor Pal Alhuwalia.

The Chairperson of the USP Audit and Risk Committee Mahmood Khan says all he has done is look at all the complaints being brought up against suspended Vice-Chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia while Ahluwalia says all he was doing was trying to clean up the university.

Mahmood Khan stresses that he did not bring forward the complaint against Ahluwalia.

Khan says the complaint was brought to him by people at the university as he is the Chairperson of the Audit and Risk Committee.

He also says that he did a bit of investigation.

The Chartered Accountant says all he has said is these are the allegations, please have it investigated and if Professor Ahluwalia is not guilty then good luck.

Khan says if Ahluwalia is guilty then action has to be taken but it is not his decision as that is the decision of the USP Council.

He says all he has done is carry out the duty that has been conferred to him by the USP Council as the Chair of a Committee that is supposed to look after the process, procedures, and governance of the university.

Khan says do not shoot the messenger.

He adds that if the "this evil" that Ahluwalia has referred to includes him then he is sorry but he stands by what he does.

Khan says he is not afraid of Ahluwalia exposing him publicly because he has done nothing wrong.

He says Ahluwalia can do all he wants and throw bombs at people but he says let’s be fair as all Khan has done is expose what people have told him and he has said it needs to be investigated.

When asked about Senior USP staff member, Elizabeth Fong saying that they know who Khan is connected to in Fiji and why he is there, Khan says he cannot answer the question because it is so ambiguous.

Khan says he decided to retire in Fiji even though he could have retired in Australia or New Zealand.

He says 4 years ago he came back to Fiji with his wife because they wanted to give back.

He says as far as he is concerned that is exactly what he is doing because since coming back he has been appointed to the USP Council which has not been a very good appointment and somebody else would have resigned by now.

Khan stresses that he intends to clean that place out so that it is a university that is supposed to be for the students and all stakeholders.

He says he has other appointments on other boards which includes the Fiji Revenue and Customs Service Board and the Public Service Commission.

While speaking to staff and students supporting him, Professor Pal Ahluwalia said yesterday that this evil has done the university so much damage.

Ahluwalia says he has done nothing wrong and he will fight any allegations lawfully. He says there have been nine investigations against him already.



Incoming USP Chancellor to call for a Special USP Council meeting

By Semi Turaga
Wednesday 10/06/2020
President of Nauru and incoming Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific Lionel Aingimea

The President of Nauru and incoming Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific Lionel Aingimea says the institution has been hijacked and declared that he will immediately seek the support of Council colleagues to call a special Council meeting as a matter of urgency.

He has called the decision to stand down Vice-Chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia a sad day in the history of this esteemed institution.

Aingimea says the very individuals responsible for carrying out good governance have failed this great university.

He says the disciplinary ordinance for dealing with the Vice-Chancellor has been violated adding there are processes and procedures which dictate how such matters should be dealt with but these have simply been ignored.

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The Incoming USP Chancellor says due process requires that any investigation or action against the Vice-Chancellor must be sanctioned by Council when the allegations have been brought to its attention.

He says this did not happen and we are in this current crisis because of failed governance.

Aingimea who is a Council member and USP alumnus is due to take up his post on July 1st.

He says USP is a regional university owned by 12 member countries and must remain so.

Aingimea says the region must not allow USP to become another national university.

He stresses that all member countries must have a say in their future.

Aingimea says he twice wrote to the full Council pointing out the need for caution and a considered response to allegations levelled against Ahluwalia but said instead he has witnessed the vilification and lack of natural justice being accorded to Ahluwalia.




support-sm

About 500 USP staff and the USP Students Association want USP VC to remain – Fong

It is up to the USP Council on what it decides – Pro Chancellor Thompson

By Vijay Narayan,Naveel Krishant, Semi Turaga

About 500 staff of the University of the South Pacific and members of the USP Students Association want the USP Vice-Chancellor Pal Ahluwalia to remain in office and to be assessed based on his Key Performance Indicators.

Staff representative, Elizabeth Fong says Usp has about 1,400 staff and more than 40 percent of the staff want Vice-Chancellor Ahluwalia to remain in office.

She says Ahluwalia had found out that there were governance issues when the previous Vice-Chancellor was in office. Fong says there should no interference. The USP Students Association says they will not hesitate to join member countries to initiate USP council proceedings to remove Pro-Chancellor Winston Thompson should he continue to allegedly defy council resolutions and allegedly act against the intents of the USP Council.

They want the commission appointed by the USP Council to complete their appointed task and allow Vice-Chancellor Ahluwalia to carry out his tasks and responsibilities without undue interruption from Thompson and his associates.

Spokesperson Aneet Kumar stresses that the biggest victims out of this power struggle in the university are the students.

USP Pro Chancellor Winston Thompson left the Executive Committee meeting in the last hour and may return later.

Thompson says it is up to the council whether he should be dismissed or not and he hopes people base their concerns on facts.

Ahluwalia-02-sm

VC Ahluwalia still unaware of his suspension pending investigations

No official comments made by USP Council

By: Vijay Narayan, Semi Turaga, Naveel Krishant

USP Vice-Chancellor Pal Ahluwalia says he has not been informed that he has to step aside so that investigations against him for alleged misconduct can be done.

Although Fijivillage has received information that Ahluwalia has been suspended pending an independent inquiry, he says he does not want to comment on any reports saying that he has to step aside.

He says he has done nothing wrong and he will fight any allegations lawfully. Ahluwalia adds that there have been nine investigations against him already.

As the USP Vice-Chancellor came out to meet his supporters yesterday, he was met with cheers.

After thanking his supporters, they prayed together.

When approached for a comment, USP Pro-Chancellor Winston Thompson says he is not in a position to reveal anything at this time.

Concerns continue to be raised about the operations at USP and students are also saying that all this drama is affecting their education.

Stay tuned for the latest news on our radio stations

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