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Years of ‘cash leakage’ from USP Suva HQ – inquiry

Wednesday September 11, 2019 Written by Published in National
Dr Debi Futter-Puati. 19061816 Dr Debi Futter-Puati. 19061816

The University of the South Pacific has been critically weakened by lack of oversight, governance, and control of remuneration, an inquiry finds.


The financial mismanagement at the university’s Fiji head office had undermined its ability to credibly educate Pacific students.

BDO Auckland completed an independent investigation commissioned by the Audit and Risk Committee of the University of South Pacific, investigating remuneration decisions made by the former Vice-Chancellor and university senior management team.

 “USP’s current policy framework, while extensive, is overly complex, fragmented, outdated, and generally isn’t fit-for-purpose,” the inquiry found.

“As a result, four remuneration mechanisms have collectively been exploited and have led to significant cash leakage across the USP over a number of years.”

The university’s new Cook Islands director Dr Debi Futter-Puati said she understood that no regional campus was implicated in any of the allegations, in any way. “This report seems to validate my understanding, that it has all been USP Fiji senior management issues.

“From my very short time at USP I agree with some of the issues identified in the report: the extent of policy being extensive, fragmented, outdated and not fit for purpose, and that HR is difficult, due to a lack of clarity.”

BDO noted that the university relied heavily on employees who had reached retirement age, which would suggest a lack of succession planning across these senior roles.

Extensive allowances had been paid to some staff, and bonuses and, in some cases, multiple bonuses. This was in breach of the university’s policies.

“It appears that a culture of entitlement to bonuses has developed rather than being a mechanism to reward exceptional effort and performance,” BDO warned.

The accounting firm’s inquiry concluded that the lack of leadership had contributed to the weaknesses identified across management.

Futter-Puati added: “Many of these issues had been noted by USP's internal auditors; it's good that something is now being done about them.”

It seemed the investigation had almost brought the whole University to a standstill, she added. They has been waiting for BDO’s report – now she hoped the university could move forward.