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The Fijian government says a letter sent to the Pro-Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor to USP two days ago on the withdrawal of grant payments speaks for itself.
Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has told USP management that funding will be ceased until a thorough and independent investigation is carried out against Vice-Chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia.
The government statement said this is not a matter to be resolved through the media.
For this financial year, $27.7 million(US$10.6 million) has been allocated to USP as part of the Fijian Government’s contribution.
The government said this money will be disbursed once a grant agreement is signed, and upon resolution of the matters which have been highlighted by Sayed-Khaiyum.
From January 2020 to date the government has paid USP $21.8 million(US$10.2 million) which includes grant monies from the previous budget.
Sayed-Khaiyum states the Fijian government as the largest grant contributor is genuinely concerned with continuous question marks about the lack of adherence to the principles of good governance in the day to day administration of USP.
This relates to allegations of material misconduct by Professor Ahluwalia.
Sayed-Khaiyum adds that the government is particularly and deeply concerned about the lack of investigation into serious allegations identified by the USP Pro-Chancellor and the Chair of the Audit and Risk Committee.
Meanwhile, the President of the Fiji National Federation Party Pio Tikoduadua says it is shocking that Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, the Minister for Economy, has decided to withhold Fiji Government’s grant to the USP on flimsy allegations, which the USP council has rejected.
“By holding the grants on the basis of allegations made by the Minister’s own relative placed on USP Council under his influence, is the worst case of abuse of power by Sayed-Khaiyum.
“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. The University’s financial accounts are audited by credible accounting firms registered to practice in Fiji. Audited accounts for 2019 are unqualified. There, thus, is no basis for the Government to withhold any fund.
“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. Without this, holding any grant, is bordering on the illegal and absolute bad faith,” said Tikoduadua in a statement.
He said 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.
“This accounting firm confirmed massive instances of abuse of funds uncovered by the present Vice Chancellor. The Fiji Government has demanded that this report not be made public.
“This is unbecoming of any Government which stands for transparency and good governance. We demand that this report be made public. Public funds are used at USP. The public has a right to read the report by the accounting firm.
“By holding the grants, the FFP Government has sent a clear message to Fiji’s students and parents: that the FFP Government does not care for the education of students.
“It has sent a clear message that it will not support the education of Fiji’s students unless corruption is allowed to flourish at the University and the regime’s favoured people are allowed to make undue gains from University education. Parents and students are treated with utter contempt by this government.
“We demand that taxpayers money not be withheld by the Minister for Economy from USP. We demand that the funds be immediately released. We demand that the Fiji First government allow USP to be governed by the USP Council as established by law.
We demand that Fiji First Government stop playing with the future of Fiji’s students,” said Tikoduadua.
SOURCE: FBC NEWS/PACNEWS
Pacific Islands News Association
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