3 Top USP Locals Sent Home

The three are from the Human Resources Department, the Finance team and USP’s Centre for Flexible Learning, whose new Director’s appointment has raised some questions.
23 Feb 2021 08:51
3 Top USP Locals Sent Home

Three senior local University of the South Pacific staff have been suspended.

At least one of them is believed to have been allegedly suspended following a suspected witch hunt to identify who leaked information of various serious allegations to the Fiji Sun.

The three are from the Human Resources Department, the Finance team and USP’s Centre for Flexible Learning, whose new Director’s appointment has raised some questions.

The three have been suspended without pay.

USP Manager Communications Strategic Partnerships, Advancement & Communications (SPAC), Vineeta Nand said: “Following legal advice, USP will not engage publicly on matters pertaining to staff. These are internal USP matters.”

Prof Ahluwalia salary payment

Meanwhile, the decision to pay former Professor Pal Ahluwalia salary’s last Friday was not made by the University of the South Pacific Council, Fiji Sun has been able to establish.

And, the authorisation to pay Prof Ahluwalia came from Tongan Education Minister Siaosi Sovaleni who is believed to be USP Acting Vice Chancellor and President Giulio Masasso Tu’ikolongahau Paunga’s half brother.

Fiji Sun questioned USP’s communications department the relationship between the Tongan Education Minister and Mr Paunga, among other queries. The email was acknowledged by Ms Nand.

When asked whether a response would be forthcoming before this edition went to press, Ms Nand said she was not sure when they would be able to respond.

Fiji Sun has also established that the Tongan Education Minister did not have the authority to authorise the payment of Prof Ahluwalia’s salary.

Mr Sovaleni is an ordinary Council member who only chaired one agenda item of the Council when Nauru representative, Lionel Aingimea, recused himself.

The lone agenda item that Mr Sovaleni was asked to chair was to determine how the Council would deal with the allegations against Pro Chancellor Winston Thompson and chair of Audit and Risk Committee Mahmood Khan raised by Mr Aingimea.

Apart from this, Mr Sovaleni allegedly did not have the Council approval nor the authority to authorise the fortnightly net pay of about $13,000 to Prof Ahluwalia. It is understood that this approval was sought by Mr Paunga via email and authorised by Mr Sovaleni via email. This is believed to be against USP processes.


It is yet to be established whether the Fiji Independent Commission against Corruption and the Fiji Revenue and Customs Service will act on the payment to Prof Ahluwalia who is without a valid work permit and without a valid work contract.

By far the largest member country contribution comes from Fiji. The latest USP Annual Report for 2019 states that Fiji’s contribution was $27.5million.

The next highest contribution of $3.4million came from Solomon Islands. By contrast Nauru’s contribution to the University was a rather paltry $131,000.

Edited by Ranoba Baoa



  • Inducement payment continued under Prof Ahluwalia. Beneficiaries were his most vocal supporters.

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