The this article is a public media statement released by the current Minister for Department of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (DHERST) released to the public media on 22nd of January 2019.
To all Members of the public, including students, staff, and stakeholders of the University of Papua New Guinea. I have taken the serious step of lawfully revoking the membership of the Governing Body of the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG), due to a failure of the Governing Body to address financial mismanagement, and alleged fraud and corruption at the University. I take this action after repeated efforts to raise these matters with the UPNG Council and the Acting Vice-Chancellor have been unsuccessful.
Section 152 of the Higher Education (General Provisions) Act 2014 requires me to take the appropriate actions or measures that are necessary to promote the interest of the University, provided I am satisfied that the institution is being so negligently, inefficiently or badly conducted as not in the interest of higher education institutions in the country. The Act gives me the power to revoke the membership of the Governing Body, to suspend the Vice-Chancellor as Chief Executive Officer and to appoint an Interim Governing Body.
Credible and confirmed instances of financial mismanagement, and allegations of fraud and corrupt conduct at UPNG that have yet to be investigated, have been brought to my attention. These instances have also been brought to the Governing Body, which has failed to take decisive action to address them. There is evidence that the UPNG management is obstructing lawful internal and external investigations.
Enough is enough. If we are serious about restoring the reputation of the University of Papua New Guinea as a premier tertiary education institution, we need to make sure that efforts to weed out entrenched mismanagement, misconduct and any illegal activities are vigorously pursued.
To this end, I am appointing an Interim Governing Body to server for twelve months. All members will be required to complete fit and proper person declarations, to declare any interests and to undergo training in the principles of good governance. This action is undertaken in accordance with the section 152 (3) (c) of the Act. The first act of the Interim Governing Body will be to appoint an Acting Chief Executive Officer as provided for section 152 (3) (e) of the Act.
This Act allows for the continuation of normal University business. The academic year will proceed as scheduled. Fees will not be increased until UPNG can provide a credible justification for any fee increases while assuring me that UPNG is not wasting public funds through mismanagement. The autonomy of the University to manage its own academic activities is not affected.
For transparency, and in the public interest, I set out below the Terms of Reference given to the Interim Governing Body of UPNG.
TERMS OF REFERENCE FOR UPNG INTERIM COUNCIL.
- Appoint a new Acting-Vice Chancellor as soon as possible, with a mandate to reduce financial and academic mismanagement and misconduct at UPNG.
- Take action to cease the proposed increase of the University’s fess until such as time as financial justification is provided to the Office of the Minister of HERST and accepted by the Minister.
- Use the authority of the Interim Council to ensure UPNG stakeholders, staff, students and the public understand the reasons for establishing an Interim Council to tackle alleged fraud and misconduct at UPNG.
- Review the probity and integrity of the most recent processes for appointing a new Vice-Challenger and, if necessary, establish a new process to ensure transparency and fairness
- Provide a model for good governance of a university, using a Governance Charter to guide practice.
- Develop a business model for the Univeristy
- Work with the Minister for HERST and DHERST to harmonize UPNG legislation and the Higher Education (General Provisions )Act 2014
- Take action, through the Acting Vice-Chancellor, to secure UPNG records and resources from unauthorized use, removal or destruction by the former Chancellor, former Council members, former Acting Vice-Chancellor or other current or former staff of UPNG.
- Identify all allegations of fraud or corruption that have not yet been properly investigated and appoint qualified experts to investigate them, take all necessary disciplinary action and or other proceedings as required. Included in this requirement is investigation of the members of UPNG management who are alleged to have committed fraud against the University and who may need to be suspended from duties while under investigation
- Facilitate the independent investigation to be conducted by Department of Finance Investigation Team into allegations of property fraud at UPNG.
- Facilitate the independent investigation to the University’s Business Arm known as Uni-Venture as well as the real estate business activities
- Investigate and reform UPNG’s processes for preventing, identifying and handling academic misconduct, particularly misconduct by staff that involves students.
- Undertake other investigations or actions as required to safeguard the reputation and the integrity of UPNG.
- Keep Minister for HERST and the DHERTST Secretary informed of progress at all times
- Complete these assignments within twelve months of the commencement of this interim appoint and report simultaneously to the Minister and the DHERST Secretary on the matters that are ongoing.
God bless Papua New Guinea.
HON.PILA NINIGI, LLB, MP