NEWS

USP’s Cash Crisis

Fijian Government suspends its grant to the regional university. Decision sends shockwaves to its regional centres, stakeholders. Govt’s decision stems from concerns over the university’s lack of adherence to good governance.
25 Sep 2020 13:51
USP’s Cash Crisis

The decision by the Fijian Government to suspend its grant to the University of the South Pacific (USP) has sent shockwaves across its regional centres.

However, some academics have reached out saying they are not surprised, given what they say is a sad state of affairs plaguing the university.

Echoing their sentiments, Pro-Chancellor and council chair Winston Thompson told the Fiji Sun yesterday that USP’s finances were not looking good even before the decision by the Fijian Government.

Mr Winston said the university’s finances were not in a good state for a long time.

“This is because of the lack of investigation into the alleged financial management,” he said.

He said USP was told by the Government to carry out an independent

investigation to the satisfaction of the Fijian Government.

“The university council will review its financial position and adhere to the decision made by the Government,” he said.

He said the investigations would be done to address the university’s financial crisis.

Yesterday, a number of academics reached out to the Fiji Sun and shared their views on the financial state of USP and the restructure of which they claim Professor Pal Ahluwalia was undertaking.

 

 The claims:

There are separate claims that the regional campuses of USP are losing money and that the campuses in Fiji are the only ones making any money. Apart from the annual grant, which is now suspended, the Fijian Government also pays majority of the fees of local students at USP and are funding their education through the Tertiary Education Loan Scheme.

This is despite USP having campuses at:

  • Alafua Campus in Samoa
  • Emalus Campus in Vanuatu
  • USP Cook Islands Campus
  • USP Kiribati Campus
  • USP Marshall Islands Campus
  • USP Nauru Campusn
  • USP Niue Campus
  • USP Solomon Islands Campus
  • USP Tokelau Campus
  • USP Tonga Campus
  • USP Tuvalu Campus

Local academics have also raised concerns that 12 senior staff will be losing their jobs in the restructure undertaken by Mr Pal. Out of the 12 staff members, 10 are locals.

What is Fiji asking for?

A letter sent to Mr Thompson and Professor Ahluwalia on 23 September by the Economy Minister and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum stated that if USP wanted the grant to be resumed, independent inquiry into issues affecting the university needs to be undertaken.

The letter read:

‘The Fijian Government as the largest member country grant contributor is generally concerned with the continuous question marks about the lack of adherence to the principles of good governance in the day to day administration of the University of the South Pacific.

The Fijian Government is particularly and deeply concerned about the lack of investigation into the serious allegations that have been identified by the Pro-Chancellor and chair of the Audit and Risk Committee. We note that notwithstanding the USP Council appointed special executive committee stating that at least 14 of the 33 allegations by the chair ARC required independent investigation, the council ignored this recommendation.

Given the above, please be notified that until such time a thorough and independent investigation into all the allegations by the Pro-Chancellor and the chair ARC are carried out to our satisfaction, the Fijian Government will, with immediate effect, cease its grant contribution to USP.

Please liaise with the Permanent Secretary for Economy to obtain further information as to how an independent investigation may be facilitated to enable the expeditious recommencement of the Fijian Government grant contribution.’

The Fijian Government has allocated $27,618,635 million as grant to USP for the current financial year and Fiji is the largest country grant contributor to the regional university. The grants for first and second quarter have been paid by Fiji. The third and final quarters’ funding will be affected.

It is further believed that Australia and New Zealand have not given any money to USP this year.

National Federation Party:

The NFP has called this decision by Government an abuse of power. Mr Pal did not wish to comment when contacted yesterday.’

Edited by Naisa Koroi

Feedback:  shreeya.verma@fijisun.com.fj

 

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