USP staff lambast State on grant halt

USP's Suva campus Photo: wikicommons

Government’s decision to withhold its $27.7 million grant to the University of the South Pacific is jeopardising the education of Fijians who make up 80 per cent of the student body.

This, according to a joint letter to Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama by the Association of the USP Staff and the USP Staff Union.

“This decision is viewed as an assault on the Fiji students and staff who, to date, in this COVID and pre-COVID environment of 2019 have been able to continue their education and work with minimum impact under the current vice-chancellor’s prudent leadership and council oversight,” the two organisations wrote.

“The Government is seen to be using Fiji students and staff to dictate to and to hold the USP council to ransom while holding a ‘gun’ to the head of the vice-chancellor and president.

“The action is tantamount to ‘cutting off USP students and staff legs at their knees’ and therefore their lifelines to coping with living in the current and post-COVID environment.

“Not only will hundreds of families suffer, the quality of support and education for USP students in Fiji and the region will be seriously affected due to the domino effect of this decision.”

In a statement issued yesterday, Government said the letter sent to the pro-chancellor and vice-chancellor of USP on September 23 “speaks for itself”.

“This is not a matter to be resolved through the media,” said Government.

“For this financial year, $27.7 million has been allocated to USP, part of the Fijian Government’s contribution, which will be disbursed once a grant agreement is signed and upon resolution of the matters which have been highlighted in the letter.

“From January 2020 to date the Fijian Government has disbursed $21.8 million.

“We look forward to the matters in the letter being addressed expeditiously.”

Meanwhile, earlier this year an audited report by BDO, an Auckland-based accounting firm, was leaked on social media.

The report was a result of allegations raised by vice-chancellor Prof Pal Ahluwalia to the executive committee in early 2019 and contained serious allegations of misconduct by top university officials.

Later the executive committee levelled allegations of misconduct against Prof Ahluwalia and suspended him, raising the ire of staff members and students.

The USP council later reinstated him and dismissed allegations levelled against him.

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