NEWS

New Claims Point At USP Top Man

Jone Maritino Nemani, USP’s executive director for people and workforce strategy, took up the post in September 2020 on an annual salary of about $250,000.
24 Feb 2021 09:17
New Claims Point At USP Top Man
Jone Maritino Nemani. Photo: Ronald Kumar

New allegations that a top executive at the University of the South Pacific (USP) was paid annual leave that he was not entitled to have surfaced.

Jone Maritino Nemani, USP’s executive director for people and workforce strategy, took up the post in September 2020 on an annual salary of about $250,000. It was a direct appointment by Professor Pal Ahluwalia on a one-year contract.

Last December, he left the country to visit his wife who is employed in Nauru. He returned home and resumed work in January this year. Sources at USP revealed that Mr Nemani was entitled to be paid only eight days of annual leave, which he had accumulated since the start of his role as director last September.

However, he was allegedly paid the entire 25 days of annual leave, which he was not entitled to.

Sources at USP have confirmed that in his contract, Mr Nemani was given 25 days of annual leave while all other staff members at USP had been asked to forego 10 days of their annual leave to lessen the liability of outstanding leave in USP’s books.

Some members had queried why Mr Nemani was signed up on a 25-day annual leave instead of 15, like all other members.

They also queried why he was paid for the entire 25 days, with out having worked an entire year at the university.

Questions were emailed to Mr Nemani. It was not acknowledged nor responded to when this edition went to press.

Manager communications strategic partnerships, advancement and communications (SPAC) Vineeta Nand said: “Following legal advice, USP will not engage publicly on matters pertaining to staff. These are internal USP matters.”

Inducement allowance

One of Professor Ahluwalia’s staunchest supporters is USP’s head librarian, Elizabeth Fong.

She is also the president of the USP Staff Association.

Ms Fong was asked if there was any truth that her new contract, as librarian, continued the 26 per cent inducement allowance that was paid under her previous contract. She refused to answer but said: “I will not engage with the Fiji Sun on a matter of confidentiality.”

Professor Pal, in his dossier which led to the BDO investigation and report, had decried inducement allowance. He was of the firm belief that this was a waste of USP money and resources. However, his dossier had made no mention of the 26 per cent, which Ms Fong was receiving. There were no subsequent steps taken by Professor Pal when Ms Fong’s contract was extended to have the inducement allowance removed.

Questions however still remain why Ms Fong needed to be paid an inducement allowance when she was being promoted from the position of deputy head librarian to head librarian.

USP has traditionally paid inducement allowance to entice meritorious people from outside the university to join the institution. Ms Fong has been employed at USP since 1978.

Twitter

Such has been Ms Fong’s support for Professor Ahluwalia that when he was suspended pending investigations, she, under her watch as head librarian, posted a message to all staff and students on its official university Twitter account to say: “In support of Vice Chancellor Ahluwalia @USPlibrary is not providing any library services today (11th June).”

This was the week before examinations – one of the busiest and obviously most stressful weeks of the year for USP students.

Ms Fong had not responded to questions emailed to her on Monday, February 21.

Edited by Naisa Koroi

Feedback: jyotip@fijisun.com.fj



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