NATION

USP Saga: Committee To Look Into Issues Next Week

The upcoming meeting will be chaired by a council member, Nauru President and Minister for Education Lionel Aingimea.
27 Jun 2020 13:38
USP Saga: Committee To Look Into Issues Next Week

When the University of the South Pacific’s Council reconvene next week, they are expected to form a four-member committee to look into the report which was compiled by the Council’s chair of the Audit and Risk Committee, Mahmood Khan.

Under USP’s ordinance, the four-member committee should have been formed by the Pro-Chancellor Winston Thompson.

However, given that he was asked to recuse himself at the last meeting, the Council will now appoint the four-member team. Mr Winston is also the Council chairperson.

However, the upcoming meeting will be chaired by a council member, Nauru President and Minister for Education Lionel Aingimea.

What will they be looking into?

Mr Khan’s report of June 1, 2020 which highlighted a number of allegations related to governance.

Not the BDO Auckland report of August 2019. In fact, the BDO report had been discussed in detail at a special council meeting also in August, 2019.

The Council resolved to appoint three of their members who appointed a three-member Commission who are currently working on the recommendations of the BDO report.

In his paper titled Facts about the USP Saga presented to the Council last week, Mr Khan called for an immediate independent investigation to determine if the allegations he has made are factual or otherwise.

The objective of the Audit and Risk Committee is ‘to provide independent assurance, advice and assistance to the Council on the university’s risk, control, compliance, internal audit, and governance framework.

Below are some of the allegations raised by Mr Khan.

  • Post Retirement appointment of a staff member despite breaching requirements and regulations.
  • The renewal of Employment Contract of a director who allegedly did not meet the requirements for consideration of the Contract renewal.
  • No direct appointments are allowed for non -academic staff, however this was allegedly ignored and while appointing staff where the position was neither created nor advertised.
  • Policy followed by Dean to select and recommend a candidate to fill a vacancy of Head of School. This process was allegedly refused and not followed.
  • Appointment of another member was questioned where the post had allegedly not been advertised, no terms of reference was provided.
  • Creation of DVC position and appointment as a DVC is a Council decision – this was not done.
  • Pension contribution of another Director is allegedly being transferred to his personal English Bank Account though he is not entitled to FNPF as he is over the entitlement age .
  • Another member’s Consultancy Contract allegedly deviates from usual Consultancy Contracts which requires achieving agreed milestones before payment is made at end of contract. Instead, this member is paid fortnightly.
  • Call for another Director’s qualifications to be investigated.
  • Allegations that a Direction was appointed for a position which requires a Master’s degree but successfully candidate has only a Certificate. Candidate allegedly enrolled in MBA programme before the interview but is said to have withdrawn from the course since appointment.
  • BDO Report recommends a full forensic Investigation into another member’s Consultancy payments. It is alleged that the member also had conflict of interest in performing the Consultancy for which he has been paid material amounts.
  • Consultancy Payments made to the same member is allegedly not supported by Original Documents to validate the payments. Original documents cannot be located for all the payments.
  • Amid the Cashflow crisis and while BDO Investigation was in progress the Professor was paid $461,200.00 which has been pending since 2015 – 2017. This amount was already accrued in the Financials. The urgency in processing payment is being queried.
  • Another member had laid a formal complaint relating to personal bullying, harassment, abuse of office and major failure of leadership. It is alleged that no action was taken.
  • Appointment of an Interim dean was allegedly not advertised University wide but application was by invitation only. The panel of appointment did not include a DVC or a Council representative. This contravenes the requirements of the policy.
  • An assistant lecturer’s appointment is also being queried following allegations that the successful candidate does not meet the minimum qualification required.
  • Temporary Staff were allegedly included in Salary reviews awards which contravenes policies.
  • USP’s 2020 Handbook and Calendar has errors in listing of staff qualifications. Handbook is a Legal Document.
  • Ex Gratia payment on death of a staff member allegedly approved for larger than the amount allowed.
  • Some of the IT Staff are allegedly paid for conducting training annually – no detailed independent reconciliation of funds expanded.
  • Review of the minutes of Academic and Professional Staff Meetings indicates that Chair does not entertain the views of other members making up the committee. It is alleged that even when he has conflict of interest he does not excuse himself.
  • Performance of selected staff are reviewed externally and if the report is negative, there is no process put in place to monitor or help improve performance. Instead, the staff is removed.
  • Renewal of contract of another professor had no input from his immediate Supervisor, The Dean and no performance review undertaken.
  • Application for Personal Chair approved without following proper procedures, out of time limit and advertising. Referees selection questionable. Composition of Appointments Committee allegedly did not meet the requirements.
  • Another member, though not contracted as a Head of School performed the duties of a HOS, however, all his past responsibilities were removed without explanations when the staff helped an investigation in relation to contravention of Policies and Procedures.
  • The Council has not been informed why details of one of the biggest benefactors of an alleged financial mismanagement was left out in briefing.
  • According to the University Leave Policy for Staff, the annual leave is carried forward on the basis of use it or lose it however, you are entitled to carry forward 50 per cent of your leave entitlement but lose the balance. You are entitled to be paid 100 per cent of your leave if you resign. Last year approval was allegedly given to certain staff for leave encashment when they moved from one contract to another. This is contravention of the leave policy at a cost of $400k.
  • The salary being paid to another high official within USP allegedly has errors and despite being notified, this is not been corrected.

Forensic Investigation should be undertaken into unauthorised access of USP’s email system as critical emails and messages are being selectively removed without the authority or knowledge of the email account holder.

Lecturer allegedly appointed with less than 9 months of experience when the criteria and policy states that an individual must have minimum of 4 years of teaching experience in a Tertiary Organisation.

Feedback: jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

Fiji Sun Instagram
Fiji Plus
Subscribe-to-Newspaper