Dixon said the “Payment On Behalf of the Crown” (POBOC) currently stands at $285,000 annually, but said that they really were only able to access $125,000 of that amount.
The remaining $160,000, he believed, was always returned to the government.
Brown appeared shocked when he heard this.
“I understand the budget is $285,000, that’s the contribution to USP, but you’re spending $125,000?” Brown asked.
“Why aren’t you taking the money? It’s allocated (for you).”
Dixon maintained that in fact the USP wasn’t allowed to take the money and that the Ministry of Education has to OK the use of the remaining funds.
Once again, Brown appeared bemused by Dixon’s claims.
“That’s quite unbelievable. The Appropriations Act states that if you do not spend all of your grant it goes back into the national purse,” he said.
“You can only spend what the Act allows you to. Which is why ministries spend up to what they’re allocated. You have every right to spend the $285,000 that is appropriated under the Act.”
Dixon said that he found it “unbelievable” that the university was expected to operate on only $125,000 a year.
Celebrated carver and writer Mike Tavioni echoed Dixon’s remarks, and asked Brown to keep the Ministry of Education out of the funding process.
“I’m very happy to hear the minister say that $285,000 has been allocated to USP. But can you please not give the lollies to someone else to control?
“Give it straight to USP. We don’t need the education department. I also think you’re blaming us for not using the full amount,” Tavioni asked.
“I am,” Brown replied.
“Well we aren’t allowed to (access the full amount),” Tavioni responded.
Dixon said he had a proposal that he would like the minister to consider, which he later outlined.
“We would like to take to government to use this surplus in the POBOC to develop a National Research Centre that would provide a focal point, resources and space for almost 30 Cook Islands students currently undertaking Masters degrees and PhD research at USP Cook Islands,” Dixon said.
“This would provide government, civil society and the private sector with locally developed policy advice.”
The goal would be to consolidate USP’s existing and future archives in one location, and to support all existing research activities in the Cook Islands, he added
Dixon said the proposal would mark a transition from undergraduate teaching to post graduate research in-country.
“It would provide post graduate pathways for the almost 500 Cook Islands graduates of the USP and a vital source of local policy advice to government.”