Shine A Light

Shine A Light: $80 Million FNU Structure Far From Over

The project was estimated at $80 million. Work on the project began in 2018. But so far, what’s left is an incomplete structure that may or may never be completed.
04 Apr 2022 12:50
Shine A Light: $80 Million FNU Structure Far From Over
What’s left of the incomplete Fiji National University Labasa campus project. Photo: Ivamera Nataro

A multimillion- dollar Government project lay in ruins in Naiyaca subdivision, about seven minutes’ drive from Labasa Town.

The proposed Fiji National University Labasa Campus was touted to be the hub of academic learning in the Northern Division.

The project was estimated at $80 million. Work on the project began in 2018.

But so far, what’s left is an incomplete structure that may or may never be completed.

Minister for Education Premila Kumar had informed Parliament in February this year that work had been suspended because of legal matters.

The contractor had sued FNU for illegal termination of contract in 2020.

However, the court ruled in favour of the university, stating it could encash the bond of $2 million.

Today, a half built two-storey structure stands visible from the road.

While the foundation of the building and walls of the first floor are visible, the project is far from over.

There are at least 18 rooms left without windows, proper tiling, and roofing.

Building materials, steel, and bags of cement are left exposed to the sun, rain, and covered in mud and grass.

Some parts of the building are overgrown with grass. The second floor has three visible lecture theatre structures without any roof or walls.

Other incomplete structures are seen nearby covered in grass.

Millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money have been spent on the incomplete structure.

Shine a Light has been reliably informed that a project report had been submitted by the engineers to the university.

It is understood that despite the current state of the project, work can continue. However, there would have to be remedial works before construction continues.

For now, FNU has entered into a 10-year lease agreement with the Vanua Levu Arya Samaj to rent its building in Naduna.

Naduna was previously occupied and rented by the Ministry of Education, housing the technical college.

Naduna is about 15 minutes’ drive from Labasa Town.

This shifting of services to Naduna has raised concerns among staff and students at the university.

Students we spoke to agree that the incomplete campus was something they had anticipated.

Head of Labasa Campus Pradeep Lal declined to make a comment.

“I am not at liberty to give any comments. Contact our head of marketing,” he said, when approached at the Naduna campus.

Mr Lal is a non-paying member of the Vanua Levu Arya Samaj.

Its president, Mahendra Pratap, confirmed this.

“In any meeting, he attends as an FNU representative,” he said.

Mr Lal was also a former secretary of the Vanua Levu Arya Samaj.

Minister Kumar was also questioned on the status of the incomplete project. She, instead, directed all questions to the university.

“You should be asking the Vice- chancellor,” she said.

“It’s an operational matter. From a policy perspective, we knew why we were going to fund the FNU campus, which we have done. So, implementation is in the hands of the FNU Council.”

Ms Kumar officiated in the opening of the university’s gymnasium in Nasinu Campus on Thursday.

Questions sent to FNU and the Ministry of Economy’s Construction and Implementation Unit on the status of the incomplete structure on Wednesday remain unanswered.

What's left of the incomplete FNU Labasa campus project in Naiyaca. Photo: Ivamere Nataro

What’s left of the incomplete FNU Labasa campus project in Naiyaca. Photo: Ivamere Nataro

WHAT WAS THE EXPECTED OUTCOME?

The proposed Labasa campus was to include the construction of three lecture theatres, 18 tutorial rooms, state-of-the-art ICT facilities, conference room, library, and an admin space.

The university’s Prospectus 2020- 2021 publication indicated that the campus was to accommodate day students, in-service students, and those learning via video broadcast.

According to the publication, the campus would include:

  • Fully operational library, which is open to students till 10 pm during weekdays and till 5pm on weekends;
  • ICT facilities;
  • Wifi services are available to students at all the 3 centres in Labasa;
  • Multimedia facilities are set up in most rooms for better delivery of lectures;
  • PAL Learning;
  • Language Hub; and
  • Maths Help Hub.

 

The campus was to cater to about 1000 students. The contract was for the sum of $27.4 million for the building alone, Ms Kumar had told Parliament.

The construction project was expected to be completed by the end of 2019, as per the contract specification.

It was intended to cater for the start of the 2020 academic year.

But there were constant delays despite several completion plans submitted by the contractor.

 

THE MOVE TO NADUNA

Mr Pratap said talks between them and FNU to occupy the building in Naduna began last year.

“We came to an agreement in November last year,” Mr Pratap said.

“We have leased it to FNU for 10 years. That agreement becomes effective this April.”

 

FNU is contracted to pay $3000 monthly rent for the first five years. That will increase to $5000 for the next three years and $6000 for the final two years.

As per the agreement, FNU will pay and renovate the building to meet its desired requirements.

Cost of renovations is said to be around $3 million, Mr Pratap said.

What's left at the FNU Labasa campus project. Photo: Ivamere Nataro

What’s left at the FNU Labasa campus project. Photo: Ivamere Nataro

Shine a Light has been reliably informed that the university has so far spent $1.2 million in renovation alone.

A five-classroom block that was razed in a fire in 2018 will also be reconstructed by the university, Mr Pratap said.

Vanua Levu Arya Samaj general treasurer Vishwa Chand said re- building the block would cost more than $100,000.

“This is an advantage for us, because when the university decides to leave, we have the property already renovated.”

FNU has occupied and rented properties in Labasa over the past 10 years, since the days of the Fiji Institute of Technology.

Three buildings in Labasa, which houses FNU, are the Rosawa Centre, Rara Avenue Centre, and the main administration centre along the main town.

The Rosawa Centre has since been closed and relocated to Naduna.

The rental price of one of these buildings amounts to $5000 monthly…to read the full account from our Shine A Light Investigative Reporter and Editor Ivamere Nataro by subscribing to the Fiji Sun e-edition.

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Shine A Light is the Fiji Sun Investigative Project

 

 

Feedback: ivamere.nataro@fijisun.com.fj

 

 



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