By Samisoni Pareti and Peni Komaisavai in Suva
Allegations of serious cases of mismanagement and abuse of process at the Fiji-based regional University of the South Pacific involving its former vice-chancellor and president have emerged.
A document sighted by Islands Business news magazine questions allegedly speedy appointments and contract renewals for at least 11 senior members of the university staff, most of them Fiji nationals working at the main campus in Suva.
The document also raises questions about the payments of professional and development leave, as well as the deferment to this year, of back pay due to the former VC. The document states that the university is now concerned that it might be cited for tax evasion by Fiji’s tax authorities as a result of the deferred back payment.
In the document made available to Islands Business, the appointments of at least two deans of USP’s faculties are questioned.
Also questioned is the post-retirement renewal of an institute director’s contract. His
contract has allegedly been renewed six times. USP’s post-retirement policy allows for only 3 one-year renewals.
The document also raises concern over the promotion of a Fiji national whose salary allegedly “moved from F$28,174 to F$138,700 within a period of 6 years”.
The document questions “unusual cases” of responsibility allowance payments. This allowance is generally paid for acting roles and extra duties taken outside a staff member’s section of employment.
‘Work in own section’
In one case, a staff member is alleged to have been paid more than $159,500 in various allowances, “for doing work or managing projects in his own section”.
The re-appointment of this executive’s contract is also under scrutiny as the former VC allegedly overruled the staff review committee’s decision not to renew the contract, as the executive was due to reach the university’s retirement age.
When contacted in Suva, the former vice-chancellor claimed to be unaware of the allegations, and that no one from USP or Fiji’s Ministry of Education had been in touch about the matter.
In response to Islands Business’ questions as to whether these matters would be raised at the upcoming meeting of the USP Council meeting, the governance body for the 12-nation university, current vice-chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia said “no comment”.
Islands Business contacted the office of Rosie Akbar, the Minister for Education, and was asked by her personal assistant that the news magazine’s queries be directed to her Permanent Secretary, Alison Burchell.
Questions emailed to Burchell remained unanswered by press time.
The member countries of USP are Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Samoa.
This article is republished from Islands Business with permission.