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22 October, 2020, 11:36 pm Central - 21°C Clouds
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USP Grant

USP Grant

By fijivillage
Monday 28/09/2020

Govt withholds $27.7 million USP grant until a resolution on the highlighted matters.


No job losses for USP staff - Ahluwalia

By Iva Danford
Monday 28/09/2020

The University of the South Pacific Vice Chancellor Pal Ahluwalia has clarified that there are no job losses or pay cuts for their staff apart from their Executive Management who had already taken a 5% pay cut.

Ahluwalia says there is a lot of misinformation about job losses at USP and he wants to confirm that what they want to do is a proposed reorganization which has been necessitated by the timing of grants and also cuts through their operating grant and COVID-19.

He made these comments after Fijivillage also asked him on the effect of the Fijian government withholding the USP grant $27.7 million.

He says they could have done an across the board pay cut, but they did not as it would have been disruptive to the staff.

The Vice-Chancellor says they are meeting with staff with regards to the proposed restructure.

Ahluwalia says they did not want to burden national welfare by conducting a pay cut in all their partner countries.

He says the senate and professors met twice and they strongly endorse the new structure.

Ahluwalia says they now have to take their proposal up to the Council as it is the supreme body.

He says he is proud of his team who have worked relentlessly to find solutions.

Ahluwalia says at the beginning of the year when the news of COVID-19 came, they knew that they have to plan and this was also the time for them to really think about their students.

He confirms that Australia has committed to releasing AUS$7 million while New Zealand has lifted their grant to NZ$1.5 million.

Executive Director Finance Kolinio Boila says in the restructure, they are targeting a $15 million savings to sustain the University.

Boila says there are 90 academic positions and 26 non-academic staff.

He says they have about $5 million worth of jobs in the non-academic function which is vacant and they will not be advertising these jobs.

Boila says out of the 116 staff they currently have, in the new structure, they will need only 66 positions while 47 jobs will be floating around and will be moved into the non-academic functions.

USP Senior Librarian and staff representative, Elizabeth Read Fong says in this restructure they feel the rights of the staff are protected.




Sayed-Khaiyum has suspended Fiji’s grant to USP because the Council did not take action against the VC - Prasad

By Shanil Singh
Monday 28/09/2020
National Federation Party Leader Professor Biman Prasad (left) and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum (Right).

National Federation Party Leader Professor Biman Prasad claims the reason Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has suspended Fiji’s grant to USP is because he is unhappy that the USP Council did not take action against the new Vice-Chancellor.

Professor Prasad says the Council also did not agree to cover up the USP funding abuses exposed by Vice-Chancellor Pal Ahluwalia.

He says Sayed-Khaiyum is making this threat to assuage his bruised ego and if the Prime Minister has any concerns about the 30,000 Fiji and regional students and staff, he would immediately stop this nonsense from Sayed-Khaiyum.

Prasad says these funds belong to the people of Fiji and they are not the Attorney General’s playthings.

The NFP Leader says this behaviour threatens the long-term stability of the institution and is questioning how the university can plan for its operations if its biggest member is prepared to withhold funds any time it feels like.

Prasad adds the next threat will be to Vice-Chancellor Pal Ahluwalia as it is well known that the Fijian Government wants him out.

He adds the Government had made similar threats a few years ago when it threatened to withhold funding if Professor Wadan Narsey continued to be employed there who was later required to retire. We have contacted Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. He has not made any comments.

The Fijian Government had earlier said that the letter sent to the Pro-Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific on 23rd of September 2020 speaks for itself.

In a statement, the government had said that for this financial year, $27.7 million has been allocated to USP, part of the Fijian Government’s contribution, which will be disbursed once a grant agreement is signed and upon resolution of the matters which have been highlighted in the letter.

It says from January 2020 to date the Fijian Government has paid $21.8 million.

The government looks forward to the matters in the letter being addressed expeditiously.




I take exception to people picking on me simply because I am related to Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum - Mahmood Khan

By Vijay Narayan, Semi Turaga
Friday 25/09/2020
The Chairperson of the USP Audit and Risk Committee Mahmood Khan.

The Chairperson of the USP Audit and Risk Committee Mahmood Khan has made it clear that there is no influence from anyone and he is raising issues concerning the management of USP because he wants to help USP get back on track.

Khan says he is serving his country and if people take exception to him serving his country, then he takes exception to people picking on him simply because he is related to the Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

He says he applied for the position after it was advertised and got selected after he was interviewed.

Khan says there is no conflict of interest and he was appointed by the Minister for Education who asked for expressions of interest from people who wanted to serve on committees of tertiary institutions.

National Federation Party President, Pio Tikoduadua says by holding the government grants on the basis of allegations made by the Minister of Economy’s own relative placed on USP Council under his influence, is the worst case of abuse of power.

Tikoduadua says the law of the land is clear: USP is a legal entity founded by a number of Pacific Island Countries which by law are obliged to fund the university on a pre-agreed basis. He says the university’s financial accounts are audited by credible accounting firms registered to practice in Fiji. Tikoduadua says audited accounts for 2019 are unqualified and there is no basis for the government to withhold any fund.

The NFP President says if the government is unhappy with the way its grants are used, then it has recourse to the provisions of the Finance Management Act, under which it can itself audit the funds it has contributed. Mahmood Khan says he has been in Fiji for 3 years before he decided to serve his country.

Khan says he hopes people focus on the issue rather than personalising it.

He says at the end of the day, all he did as the Chairman of the Audit and Risk Committee is report the matters that were referred to him by whistle-blowers and people who were concerned about the shortcuts being taken.

He says, unfortunately, he is being scapegoated because all he did was do his job.

Khan is a Chartered Accountant /Consultant with 45 years of experience in Public Practice, Investigations and Governance.

Khan was an Assurance Partner of BDO, Northland, Chartered Accountants for 30 years till retirement in 2016 when returned to live permanently in Fiji. He is a member of Fiji Institute of Accountants, Member of Institute of Aust/NZ Chartered Accountants and a member of New Zealand Institute of Directors. Khan was recognised as a Fellow by the New Zealand Institute of Accountants and a Fellow of New Zealand Trustees Association.


Suspension of Fiji’s grant to USP is childish - Chaudhry

By Vijay Narayan
Friday 25/09/2020
Fiji Labour Party Leader, Mahendra Chaudhry.

Fiji Labour Party Leader, Mahendra Chaudhry says the Economy Minister’s decision to suspend Fiji’s grant to USP, is simply childish.

Chaudhry says it looks like Fiji is on its own, like a lone wolf crying foul.

The FLP Leader says he is concerned that students’ university education will be affected and it will also affect the overall reputation of USP.

He also believes that USP Pro-Chancellor Winston Thompson is unable to accept the USP Council’s decision not to investigate Vice-Chancellor Pal Ahluwalia.

Chaudhry says he hopes the Prime Minister is taking notice of this and will take some action to maintain Fiji’s reputation as a brother to the smaller Pacific Island nations.

Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has not made any comments.

Govt withholds $27.7 million USP grant until a resolution on the highlighted matters

The Fijian Government says the letter sent to the Pro-Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific on 23rd of September 2020 speaks for itself.

The government has said in a statement that this is not a matter to be resolved through the media.

It says that for this financial year, $27.7 million has been allocated to USP, part of the Fijian Government’s contribution, which will be disbursed once a grant agreement is signed and upon resolution of the matters which have been highlighted in the letter.

It says from January 2020 to date the Fijian Government has paid $21.8 million.

The government looks forward to the matters in the letter being addressed expeditiously.


Govt withholds $27.7 million USP grant until a resolution on the highlighted matters

The Fijian Government says the letter sent to the Pro-Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific on 23rd of September 2020 speaks for itself.

The government has said in a statement that this is not a matter to be resolved through the media.

It says that for this financial year, $27.7 million has been allocated to USP, part of the Fijian Government’s contribution, which will be disbursed once a grant agreement is signed and upon resolution of the matters which have been highlighted in the letter.

It says from January 2020 to date the Fijian Government has paid $21.8 million.

The government looks forward to the matters in the letter being addressed expeditiously.

Earlier


Govt withholds $27.7 million USP grant until a resolution on the highlighted matters

By Vijay Narayan, Semi Turaga
Friday 25/09/2020
University of the South Pacific Library.

The Fijian Government says the letter sent to the Pro-Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific on 23rd of September 2020 speaks for itself.

The government has said in a statement that this is not a matter to be resolved through the media.

It says that for this financial year, $27.7 million has been allocated to USP, part of the Fijian Government’s contribution, which will be disbursed once a grant agreement is signed and upon resolution of the matters which have been highlighted in the letter.

It says from January 2020 to date the Fijian Government has paid $21.8 million.

The government looks forward to the matters in the letter being addressed expeditiously.

Earlier


USP and government not making any comments on the withholding of Fiji grant to the university

By Vijay Narayan, Semi Turaga
Thursday 24/09/2020
Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and USP Vice Chancellor, Professor Pal Ahluwalia

The University of the South Pacific is not saying anything today after revelations that the Minister for Economy, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has decided to hold the grants to USP until allegations against the Vice Chancellor and other USP staff are dealt with.

USP Vice Chancellor, Professor Pal Ahluwalia has declined to make any comments while the USP Council is also tightlipped on the issue.

Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and Minister for Education, Rosy Akbar are also not saying anything.

Akbar-Rosy

However National Federation Party President, Pio Tikoduadua says it is shocking that Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has decided to withhold the Fijian Government’s grant to the USP on what he says are flimsy allegations, which the USP Council has rejected.

PIO-SM

The NFP President says the law of the land is clear: USP is a legal entity founded by a number of Pacific Island Countries which by law are obliged to fund the University on pre-agreed basis.

Tikoduadua says USP’s financial accounts are audited by credible accounting firms registered to practice in Fiji. He says audited accounts for 2019 are unqualified and there is no basis for the Government to withhold any funds.

Fiji has allocated $27.6 million for USP in the 2020/2021 National Budget. He further says if the Government is unhappy with the way its grants are used, then it has recourse to the provisions of the Finance Management Act, under which it can itself audit the funds it has contributed.

Tikoduadua says without this, holding any grant, is bordering on the illegal and absolute bad faith.

He also says it is widely known that USP has been mired in corrupt practices, which were the subject of a report by a New Zealand based accounting firm, the BDO New Zealand. He also says this accounting firm confirmed massive instances of abuse of funds uncovered by the present Vice Chancellor.

Tikoduadua also demanded that the BDO report be made public as public funds are used at USP. He says the public has a right to read the report by the accounting firm.

The NFP President says they demand that taxpayers money not be withheld by the Minister for Economy from USP, and that the Government allow USP to be governed by the USP Council as established by law.

Khan wants USP Council to carry out an independent investigation

Unfortunately the past is being repeated - Khan

Thursday 24/09/2020

Mahmood-Khan

The Chairperson of the USP Audit and Risk Committee Mahmood Khan is calling for allegations put forward by him and the Pro-Chancellor Winston Thompson against USP Vice-Chancellor Pal Ahluwalia to be independently investigated.

However the USP Council is not saying anything on the public statements mady by Khan and Thompson.

When Fijivillage sent questions to VC Ahluwalia, we were told that the Vice Chancellor will only answer to any allegations put forward to him by the USP Council.

On 1st June this year, Khan wrote to members of the USP Council indicating that he finds himself compelled to write directly to the members of council regarding various allegations and matters that have come to his attention.

He wrote that it requires immediate independent investigation.

There were 33 allegations.

Earlier this month, Khan wrote again to the council with a list of new allegations about some members of the USP staff.

Khan says all he has done is convey the facts to whoever it needs to be told to and he is not accusing anyone.

The Chartered Accountant claims things in the BDO report are being repeated by the new management.

He says these are allegations that have been sent to him and if they are material, actions should be taken against the persons that are liable.

Khan says he has also sent matters relating to other people for investigation and it is not only Ahluwalia so he does not understand why he has been accused of having a personal vendetta.

He says he actually wished that people looked at it from the point of view that he is trying to help USP get back on track.

Khan says there will always be people shooting him down because they are being fed one side of the story.

Earlier this month, the University of the South Pacific Council resolved that it is terminating the proceedings initiated against the Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Pal Ahluwalia.

pal-sm

The USP Council says this is based on the detailed and painstaking work undertaken by the Special Executive Committee.

It says the Special Executive Committee decided on 24th August 2020 that there were no allegations where the consensus or clear majority view were deemed material.

While speaking on these allegations which Ahluwalia has been cleared of, Khan says he was never contacted by the committee that was looking into investigations of the allegations.

Khan says he was never asked to give any information to the Special Executive Committee.

He says the first thing they should have done is talk to him as he is the person that would have all the documents and information.

Khan has written to the USP Council about this.

He says he did not put up these allegations and they were brought forward to him as the Chairman of the Audit and Risk Committee.

Khan says what he is saying is these are things that have been reported to him, please investigate and if its wrong then please take action.

He says he is sick and tired of wastage of funds and time and all the things that have been carried on – both in the past and in the future

Khan claims that unfortunately the past is being repeated.






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