Government takes steps to clear USP grant arrears

December 5, 2023 6:40 am

The University of the South Pacific

The Fiji government is on track to clear its outstanding grant to the University of the South Pacific.

The USP grant had been withheld from 2019 under the FijiFirst Government, who had demanded an independent investigation into alleged mismanagement by current vice-chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia.

Up until February this year the accumulated amount owing to USP was over $100m, of which $10m has been paid off by the coalition government.

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In an exclusive interview on FBC TV program “Saqamoli Matters”, Finance Minister Professor Biman Prasad also cleared the air on his role on the USP council and matters concerning the management of USP.

Finance Minister Professor Biman Prasad

While the ten million dollars arrears have been paid, the Deputy Prime Minster says other arrangements are in place to pay-off the remaining dues.

“We have restored the normal grant, you know, which is like in the budget. And we have also made provision of $20 million additional to clear the areas. And we will have more discussion with the University of the South Pacific, you know, in terms of how we can schedule the repayment, you know, in terms of the areas.”

Professor Prasad stresses that USP is an important regional institution and it needs the support of the government.

“There is a lot of benefit from USP being based in Fiji, the headquarters, huge economic benefit, huge educational benefit. The largest number of students who study in the university are from Fiji. And so it is a moral responsibility of our government to respect the decision making machinery of the university.”

While the Minister is a member of the USP Council, he says they do not meddle in the affairs of the institute.

“I don’t make decisions in the council as a government, you know, wanting some particular outcome. Yes, we will assess our own position. We will raise it there. We will vote the way we feel that the government should. But if the outcome is dependent on all the members of the council.”

Meanwhile on the issue of the relocation of Vice Chancellor Pal Ahluwalia following his reappointment, Prasad says this will be discussed between the Fiji and the Samoan governments.

He further states that they are expecting him to be based at the Suva campus.