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Some USP investigations quick off the mark Letter to Editor (sent 30 June 2014)

30/06/2014

Some USP investigations quick off the mark

Letter to Editor  (The Fiji Times, Fiji Sun, Island Business, Ashwin Raj)
(sent 30 June 2014)

Dear Sir,

It is wonderful that USP management is so quick off the mark to investigate possible breaches of the USP code of conduct by two journalism lecturers, who merely gave their personal views to the media on continuing media censorship in Fiji, and military brutality in the past.

But so far, both USP management and the Chair of USP Council have refused to initiate any inquiries or make any public response whatsoever into two important issues concerning the performance of USP management, raised previously by the public through the media.

Both these issues concern transparency, good governance and accountability, which are all part of USP’s Mission and Vision statements, that an honest and effective USP Council, the ultimate governing body of USP, should demand from USP management.

First, can the Chairman of USP Council (Mr Ikbal Janif) inform the tax-payers of Fiji and the USP region, what exactly were the circumstances which led to the recent resignation of Professor Susan Kelly (Deputy Vice Chancellor at USP), at great financial cost to the University and taxpayers?

The second issue concerns talented and scarce regional academics leaving USP, clearly unwanted by the USP management.  The most recent case was Professor of Economics, Dr Biman Prasad, who was outstanding as Dean for several years, and in the opinion of most senior academic colleagues and sectional administrators at USP, eminently qualified, both academically and administratively,  to be appointed to the position of Deputy Vice Chancellor, for which he had unsuccessfully applied (I mean no disrespect to the appointed individual who has the good luck to be a beneficiary of the circumstances).

The USP Appointment Committee (of which Mr Ikbal Janif was also Chairman) was entitled to make its own judgment.   But, as a tax payer and a former USP professor concerned about serious ongoing governance issues at USP, I wish to question if the final appointment committee meeting,  followed the basic principles of fairness and natural justice to Professor Biman Prasad.

(1) after six months of delay while Professor Prasad (and the applicants) were put through any number of interviews and tests, why was the appointment committee meeting not postponed for a few days, because the Chairman (Mr Jannif) was supposedly “ill-disposed” on that particular day of the final committee meeting?

(2) why was the meeting chaired by the Deputy Chair of Council, who was not on the original Appointments Committee, who was not present at the public presentations by the candidates, who was not part of the earlier interview processes, and who would therefore not have been in a position to judge the relative merits of the candidates?

(3) is it correct that at that last appointment committee meeting (at which there were two absentees), the same Acting Chairperson, supported by the Vice Chancellor, took an active role in pushing for the current appointee, who had nowhere near the academic or administrative qualifications of Professor Prasad, instead of letting the normal committee members make the decision?

Mr Janif  must be accountable to tax-payers both as Chair of the ultimate governing body, USP Council, and as Chairman of this particular Appointment Committee, which supposedly found Professor Biman Prasad’s application for the position of Deputy Vice Chancellor, inferior to that of the current appointee.

Can Mr Ikbal Janif, also a former Chairman of Transparency International Fiji, please personally enlighten the public on these two issues, answer the three questions raised above, and put into practice the principles of transparency and accountability, which USP management are often preaching to the Pacific taxpayers who “own” USP?

 

Professor Wadan Narsey
Suva

 

 

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