Holding USP grants is gross abuse of power; victimises Fiji’s students
Thursday 24th September 2020
It is shocking that Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, the Minister for Economy, has decided to withhold Fiji Government’s grant to the USP on flimsy allegations, which the USP council has rejected.
By holding the grants on the basis of allegations made by the Minister’s own relative placed on USP Council under his influence, is the worst case of abuse of power by Sayed-Khaiyum.
The law of the land is clear: USP is a legal entity founded by a number of Pacific Island Countries which by law are obliged to fund the University on pre-agreed basis. The University’s financial accounts are audited by credible accounting firms registered to practice in Fiji. Audited accounts for 2019 are unqualified. There, thus, is no basis for the Government to withhold any fund.
If the Government is unhappy with the way its grants are used, then it has recourse to the provisions of the Finance Management Act, under which it can itself audit the funds it has contributed. Without this, holding any grant, is bordering on the illegal and absolute bad faith.
It is widely known that USP has been mired in corrupt practices, which were the subject of a report by a New Zealand based accounting firm, the BDO New Zealand. This accounting firm confirmed massive instances of abuse of funds uncovered by the present Vice Chancellor. The Fiji Government has demanded that this report not be made public.
This is unbecoming of any Government which stands for transparency and good governance. We demand that this report be made public. Public funds are used at USP. The public has a right to read the report by the accounting firm.
By holding the grants, the FFP Government has sent a clear message to Fiji’s students and parents: that the FFP Government does not care for the education of students.
It has sent a clear message that it will not support the education of Fiji’s students unless corruption is allowed to flourish at the University and the regime’s favoured people are allowed to make undue gains from University education. Parents and students are treated with utter contempt by this government.
It is known that in the past, the same FFP Government had threatened USP with not paying its grant unless it fired renown academic Professor Wadan Narsey.
It is also well known that in the past the same Government effectively fired the Vice Chancellor of FNU when he did not cower to the whims of a few Ministers who wanted to control the FNU and usher-in corrupt practices there.
It is widely known now that the FNU’s Labasa campus works, which were tendered out for $28m, haven’t been completed and is unlikely to be completed in anything less than $32m.
We ask – is it true that under the reign of the then VC, the same scope of works which were contracted out for $28m were estimated to cost less than $10m?
The same FFP government has also effectively fired 2 Vice Chancellors at the University of Fiji, in one case by not extending the workpermit, and in another by withdrawing the workpermit on clearly illegal grounds.
Now the Fiji First regime wants the USP Vice Chancellor to be fired.
The Fiji First Government is known to be threatened by academic freedom. It is now known to be threatened by Fiji’s students and academics, who are now exposing the corrupt practices under the regime. It is time for Fiji’s students, academics and parents to demand that Fiji First stop playing with academic freedom, and the future of Fiji’s children.
We demand that taxpayers money not be withheld by the Minister for Economy from USP. We demand that the funds be immediately released. We demand that the Fiji First government allow USP to be governed by the USP Council as established by law.
We demand that Fiji First Government stop playing with the future of Fiji’s students.
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