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Fiji Time: 4:20 PM on Saturday 19 April

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$4m hunt

Nanise Loanakadavu
Sunday, February 03, 2013

Absconding scholarship recipients owe the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs $4 million in unpaid bonds.

This was made known following the recovery program undertaken by the ministry in the past two years.

And most of these students were PhD and Masters students who opted to study in New Zealand and Australia.

Yesterday, 194 students who have scholarships to study at the Fiji National University were reminded during their orientation not to waste taxpayers' money by not completing their education and also not serving their bond once they had graduated.

While the ministry admitted tracking absconders was the most challenging part, this would not affect the issuing of scholarships to students who wished to apply for the same awards this year.

Scholarship manager Tomasi Volau during an interview with this newspaper yesterday said the ministry had sought the assistance of the Department of Immigration and Data Bureau to recover this amount.

He said these students were offered with good package from companies once they graduated in NZ and Australia and they tended to forget serving their bond in Fiji.

"This was owed by past years' students who were awarded with the scholarships before 2011," he said.

"All graduate students' names are on the watch list and we have updated our data system with the Data Bureau for recovery," Mr Volau said.

"These are only for students who were supposed to have returned to the country and serve their bond," he said.

Mr Volau said a lot of guarantors had came on board to pay the money owed by the students.

Mr Volau said on Friday a student came from New Zealand for a personal gathering.

He said she was returning with her family to NZ when an Immigration Department official stopped her as her name was on the watch list.

He said having absconders' names on the watch list had been very helpful as a lot of students were tracked at the Nadi airport.

This year government has allocated another $10 million for a scholarship grant to the ministry.

Although Mr Volau did not reveal how much has been recovered so far, he said they were optimistic new recipients would not renege on their bond agreements.