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Student Body Head Under Fire

Student Body Head Under Fire
Fiji National University Student Association president Ketan Lal.
August 30
10:25 2018

Questions about the way funds have been used have been asked of the Fiji National University Student Association president Ketan Lal.

More than 700 students have signed a petition which was handed over to the Attorney-General and Minister for Education Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum at his office yesterday.

More than 35 students met with Mr Sayed-Khaiyum, asking that these grievances be looked into with urgency.

Mr Lal said he did not have any comments to make. He said journalists could meet him in his office today. A statement from vice chancellor Nigel Healey said the claims in the petition had already been investigated and found to be baseless.

The claims:

  • Students are questioning how a vehicle registration FNUSA was bought and who paid for it.
  • The financial report of the Student Association needs to be audited by an outside body.
  • Questions about Mr Lal – his qualification, how he was appointed, his background and his salary have also been raised.
  • Who appointed Mr Lal’s council members is another question being asked.
  • Were FNU’s procurement processes followed when Mr Lal purchased office fit-outs and which companies supplied the fit-outs.
  • The students claim they are in the dark about how much the office fit outs cost.
  • Who funds Mr Lal’s overseas trips? Who pays for his per diem? Is he paid any other allowance apart from his salary?
  • Has Mr Lal written any policies?
  • Where are the financial statements of the funds held by the student association?
  • More than $2000 was allegedly given to the president of another student body for which there are allegedly no receipts.

These issues have also been raised by the students to the Registrar of FNU through a petition seeking clarification.

The students are also looking for a copy of the FNUSA’s Constitution, which they have not been able to find.

Leading the students was final year law student Ilisapeci Marama Tunamena. She expressed their outrage over the allegedly veil of secrecy surrounding the FNUSA.

“We are here to raise the queries on the issues that we are facing at FNU in regards to the misuse of our finance. For the last past years, we haven’t received any financial report. That financial report has to come from the FNU Student Association of which Ketan Lal is the president.

“We had raised the issue to the FNU registrar.

“Ketan Lal had promised us that he will give the financial report straight after the FNUSA annual general meeting in Ba.

“But he never provided us with any financial report from that time till to date.

“Again we wrote to the vice-chancellor and there are about 700 students from all campuses who have signed our grievances on this matter as they are having issues.

“Also we are trying to get a clarification from him on the ownership of certain vehicles that he has which are JF 667 and FNUSA registered vehicles because that is our money and in order for those vehicles to bought, he should consult us.

“Thirdly, we see that there is misuse of funds. We are the law students association of which I am the member, and when we want the money, what right does he have for him to be the custodian of our money in Nasinu campus.

The FNUSA is an independent body and our money should come directly to us but why is he holding onto it.

“That is the query that the students have from all the campuses. Because he has to clarify that. Under the constitution of FNUSA, he does not have any right to do that because FNUSA is an independent body.

“We are paying $73 for our registration fee and most of the students are paying $73 every trimester. Why is that? Where is our money going?

“That is our issue and we also have other issues. We have all the signatures from all the campuses. How is he our president, we don’t know that.”

Out of the $73, $20 goes to the FNUSA and $53 goes to the enrolment fee. Of which $10 goes to the association and $10 to the campus.

Ms Tunamena has also raised questions about the “luxury” furniture Mr Lal has in his office.

“If you walk in his office, you will be shocked to see the furniture’s he got. Where is all this money coming from?

“But if he provides us with the financial report, we will be satisfied. But he never provided us with any. That is our main query.

“We did raise this matter up to the registrar and to the vice-chancellor, till today they never answered us.

“But we did the right thing and told them if they  don’t answer, if the president does not give us any financial report, we will come to FICAC.

“Our proposal is if FICAC can come and investigate on all our finances,” Ms Tunamena told the Attorney-General.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said: “As you know some of the issues that you have raised falls outside the parameters of what the Government can do.

“You have an independent university council, then you have your independent constitution too.

“There is normal legal redress that you can seek within your constitutional provisions.

“But if you present that to us then we can obviously raise it because the Government is the financier of FNU. We can raise this with the VC and the council itself,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

Ms Tunamena in response said they wanted the matter to be dealt with, urgently.

Ms Tunamena said similar issues were raised at the FNUSA annual general meeting which was held in Ba last September, but they were not furnished with any responses.

“All the meetings, AGMs, etc, none of the students are aware of it.

He (Mr Lal) informs the presidents of the campuses and they attend.

“We should all know about what’s going on as it’s our money. We do not know how Ketan Lal was elected as the president of the FNUSA. That is another of our queries of how he was elected.

“The students were not informed, not aware of. 

“For the Nasinu campus, the $20 we pay along with the enrolment fee of $53, is going to him. Our query is what right does he have to be the custodian of our money.

“It’s not in the constitution. When we have our activities, we do not get it. Where is the money that we pay?

“The FNUSA vehicle – we do not know when it was purchased or how it was purchased because buying that vehicle should come to us and ask the students whether we say yes to the purchasing of that vehicle. We do not even know what the purpose of that vehicle is because he drives it every single day as his personal use.

“We requesting the Attorney-General to help us as we urgently need the help. We want FICAC to look into the issue.”

FNU Vice Chancellor Nigel Healey Said:

“This same letter was sent to the Registrar by Ms Tunamena alleging these issues on March 12, 2018.

“The Registrar immediately called for an investigative meeting with all parties concerned (including  Ms Tunamena, the FNUSA president and the FNUSA treasurer) the following day and addressed all the points raised in the letter.

“The allegations were found to be baseless and the only outstanding issue was the audited financial statement which was not available at that point and was presented at the subsequent FNUSA AGM.

“The financial statement for FNUSA is audited by an external auditor; Parkers Chartered Accountants (Fiji) PTE Limited and was completed on 15 March 2018.

“It was presented to student members at the FNUSA AGM on 24 March 2018 and the meeting was attended by Ms Tunamena.

“The allegations raised in the letter of 12 March 2018 were resolved promptly and properly following FNU regulations and we consider the matter closed.”

Edited by Nemani Delaibatiki

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