Analysis

Allegations Against Prof Pal Versus BDO Investigation

University of the South Pacific Vice Chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia presented a list of allegations against his predecessor, Professor Rajesh Chandra.
07 Oct 2020 09:50
Allegations Against Prof Pal Versus BDO Investigation
USP Vice Chancellor and president Pal Ahluwalia.

University of the South Pacific Vice Chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia presented a list of allegations against his predecessor, Professor Rajesh Chandra.

Yesterday, we wrote about the debt inherited by Professor Chandra and how he turned it around.

We also questioned why the Council had not explained what the BDO report meant.

The Council instituted investigation was to investigate the allegations made by Professor Ahluwalia against the former Vice-Chancellor.

The BDO enquiry did not find any material mismanagement except that it recommended that policies and procedures around Human Resources and Finance should be strengthened to avoid misinterpretations of the powers of the Vice-Chancellor.

The Council accepted the findings and decided to issue a summary report to the media and that the full report should not be released.

The Council also appointed a three-member Commission to look into the shortcomings of the policies and procedures around HR, Finance and other areas so that the intent of these becomes clear and transparent and not prone to different interpretations.

The Council was also informed through a letter from FICAC that there was no fraud involved.

Allegations against Professor Ahluwalia:

The allegations against Professor Ahluwalia has come about over the past 16 months resulting from the revelation by the Chair of USP’s Audit and Risk Committee (ARC) of 33 counts of instances where it is alleged that Professor Ahluwalia did not follow the established procedures.

These allegations were considered by the Executive Committee of the Council and it was decided (chair of Council and chair of (ARC) didn’t vote) that because of the seriousness of the allegations, it was only fair to suspend the VCP and undertake and investigation.

This, in no way meant that Professor Ahluwalia was guilty on those counts.

He is still innocent. But this action provided an opportunity, through an independent process, to get to the bottom of these allegations and establish the truth based on evidences.

The moment this decision was taken and announced by Pro-Chancellor, who is also Chair of Executive Committee, the same members of the Council started reacting and supporting Professor Ahluwalia that he has not done anything and it is a ploy by the Chair of Council and Chair of ARC to start a witch hunt.

This is where the problem seemingly started. Rather than some Council members such as Nauru President, Samoa Deputy Prime Minister, Australia and New Zealand members on the Council and a few other members supporting the decision of their Executive Council, started to openly criticise the decision.

They should have accepted the legitimate decision of the Executive Committee, which strictly followed the procedure laid out in the Ordnance on matters relating to the conduct of the VCP.

Financial crisis:

The Fijian Government has withheld its grant to USP. It has said that once an independent committee is established and looks into the 33 allegations, it would resume its grant.

The USP Council followed the rule to the letter when the BDO report was tabled, except of course when they failed to openly talk about the findings which led to people believing hearsay, leading to more confusion.

The same Council did not follow its own procedures and processes when another set of allegations were brought forward.

The Council owes it to the USP students and staff who have given decades to the regional University to do the right thing.

TOMORROW: USP unions in a fix?

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