The hearing for the defamation matter between Fiji Labour Party candidate Aman Ravindra-Singh and Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum was called before the High Court in Suva recently.
Bainimarama and Sayed-Khaiyum are both suing Ravindra-Singh for defamation.
Bainimarama and Sayed-Khaiyum’s lawyer Devanesh Sharma said during the proceeding that he had filed extensive legal submissions that explained and contained complete discussions in the matter.
Sharma produced Singh’s recent posts on his Facebook page as evidence. In response, Singh said the post print-outs had nothing to do with the case.
Sharma added that Singh was still taking snide shots at his clients and Singh was continuing to use hashtags “#Korrupt Khaiyum and #ViolentVoreqe”.
Sharma said Ravindra-Singh had not shown any remorse and he continued to refer to the plaintiffs the same way.
In response, Singh objected to the evidence put before the court and argued that it was his free speech and that the evidence was highly prejudicial and should not be accepted by the court.
Singh is alleged to have used offending words in a Facebook post in 2018 titled Regime Dirty Politics.
The judgment on this case would be made on July 24. Source: The Fiji Times
ALL PUMPED UP for his clients: Lawyer Devanesh Sharma and Aman Ravindra Singh square off in Bainimarama-Khayium Defamation case
It is understandable that Winston Thompson might want to consign the BDO Report to the dustbins of history and to call for the media to “give it a rest”.
But what about the taxpayers of the region, the Member Governments of USP and the Donors who collectively all fund USP and who are entitled to know if their funds have been properly used as intended, and if not, who were responsible for the mismanagement, and what needs to be done to the system of governance to ensure that such disasters to no recur?
The Fiji public may remember that when the public called for a public inquiry into the NBF disaster the then Minister of Finance (the late Bernard Vunibobo) said famously “it is water under the bridge”. No public inquiry was ever held, no lessons were learnt, and government financial scams continued year after year as miscreants were not held to account.
That NBF crisis and now the USP crisis all lend substance to the oft quoted truism “those that do not learn from the mistakes of history are destined to repeat them”.
Or as Labasa wit Sukha Singh pointed out to Winston Thompson “can we now expect this USP disaster to be taught in history classes in schools?”. Probably not.
While the public are calling for the BDO Report to be made public, two blogsites (FijiLeaks and Coup 4.5) have had the BDO Report freely available to the public.
While the BDO Report does reveal much evidence of many of the USP shenanigans, it is strangely reluctant to draw the correct conclusions from the evidence that themselves have uncovered.
Note that the BDO Report admitted that they could not read all the documents made available to them or do a full investigation.
We can also ask why USP Council did not call for a full investigation of the allegations (and constructive recommendations) made by a former senior manager at USP (Dr Dilawar Grewal) who was also terminated by the former VC Chandra. Were the Council Members even made aware that this Report of complaints had been sent to them by this senior USP Manager?
Grewal’s fascinating and perceptive Report on the weaknesses at USP’s senior management level is also freely available on the blogsite Fijileaks.
Why was BDO hired?
BDO Auckland was hired by The Audit and Risk Committee of USP (Chairman Mahmood Khan) to undertake an investigation into the allegations raised by a paper tabled by USP VC Pal Ahluwalia at a USP Council meeting of 15 and 16 May 2019 in Vanuatu: “Issues, Concerns, and Breaches of Past Management and Financial Decisions” (“Paper”).
BDO presented their paper dated 21 August 2019, noting that they had not been able to peruse all the documents that had been made available to them.
But BDO strangely managed through the assistance of USP’s IT section, to access the emails (and many would say, breach the privacy) of all the persons who may have had any role in the allegations had been raised by the VC Ahluwalia, including the VC himself.
The BDO Report grouped the allegations under five headings under which all the allegations were examined:
This article only discusses the 15 allegations (14 made by Ahluwalia with one more wisely added by the BDO Team because of the evidence they uncovered concerning another Head of Department and Professor who (interestingly) had not been not named in the Ahluwalia Paper.
The crucial transition period
It is a pity that the BDO Report does not clearly set out the timeline of complaints by Ahluwalia in this transition period, because Ahluwalia had complained quite early on to Chair of Council Winston Thompson that he was not being consulted on important decisions by the previous VC.
It should be pointed out that although the last contract of VC Rajesh Chandra was to finish mid-2018 (after he failed to get a longer contract), he prevailed upon USP Council to extend it to the end of 2018 to enable him to take part in the USP@50 celebrations.
USP Council approved the appointment of VC Ahluwalia on 23 May 2019, and for him to officially commence on 1 November 2018 as VC Designate, and then fully take over as VC from 1 January 2019.
The BDO Report recorded that Chairman of Council (Winston Thompson) had met with VC Rajesh Chandra and VC Designate Ahluwalia on 23 July 2018 and called on VC Chandra to fully consult with the VC Designate Ahluwalia on all important HR decisions from then on.
So VC Designate Ahluwalia had the understanding, complete understandable, that the retiring VC would consult with the incoming VC on substantive appointments, contract renewals and promotions from then onwards, as Ahluwalia would have to work with them.
But even though Chair Thompson had called on VC Chandra to fully consult Ahluwalia, that did not occur. It is strange that Thompson, Chandra and Ahluwalia have different recollections of what was agreed upon at that meeting and atrocious for a university, there were no minutes of this meeting, responsibility for which failure must be on the USP managers ( VC Chandra and Chair Thompson).
But the BDO Report noted that there was an email on 27 August 2018 in which Professor Ahluwalia complained to Thompson “that it had become clear that the VCP had no intention of consulting Professor Ahluwalia as they had agreed [and that] he would like to be consulted prior to any further appointments”.
The BDO Report concluded obtusely in the double negative “the comments in this email do not refute that Professor Ahluwalia was not consulted”. i.e. read: Ahluwalia was not consulted. (Note that whenever a person uses double negatives, alarm bells go off for psychologists, indicating a reluctance to face facts).
Then the BDO Report noted that Professor Ahluwalia again complained (email 4 November 2018) after he had commenced his role as VCD, “decisions must be made collaboratively between the VCP and VCD…. that many senior positions that should have been advertised had been extended or were being considered for extension and that these positions will have an impact on his ability to shape the senior management team.”
Ahluwalia repeated that he was available and ready to cooperate and he requested Chairman Thompson to make “make it clear that these decisions must have his input”.
Pro Chair Thompson’s again stated (email 5 November 2018) that “no decision on staffing will be taken without the VCD’s input now that he has arrived in Fiji” except for some temporary appointments or extensions to maintain continuity in critical areas. But in his Paper to USP Council, VC Ahluwalia stated that except for a minor two cases, the required consultation did not occur in some 14 major decisions some of which were irregular and serious enough for him to send his Paper to USP Council.
Were Ahuwalia’s allegations on lack of consultation correct?
Executive Summary of BDO Report
The BDO Executive Summary noted that their investigation had substantiated a number of allegations but not others. Only on 2 of the 15 allegations in the transition period (relating to Jai Karan and Hasmukh Lal), did the BDO Report conclude that the allegations were “partially substantiated”.
On 11 other allegations the BDO Report agreed that they “saw no evidence” of consultation with Ahluwalia, but they still strangely concluded “Allegation not substantiated”. These related to:
Now any reasonable person with common sense would say, surely if VC Ahluwalia said he was not consulted on these major HR decisions (and I make no comment on their financial implications), and if the BDO Report explicitly stated that “it could find no evidence” of any consultation by the former VC, then VC Ahluwalia’s allegations were substantiated. How could the BDO Report allege otherwise that they “were not substantiated”?
All that the BDO Report conceded was that that a number of decisions by the former VC “did not make commercial sense”.
The public can themselves read the BDO Report (on the blogsite Fijileaks) on the juicy details to understand how even this observation on major financial shenanigans has to be called the “understatement of the year”.
Any reasonable person concerned about the proper use of taxpayers funds and reading the few details in the BDO Report must conclude that a fuller and independent inquiry must be done which examines the responsibilities of ALL the stakeholders in USP, including USP Council itself.
For instance, the BDO Report itself noted in the Executive Summary of all places that similar themes and weaknesses that they were outlining in their report, had been previously identified by KPMG in their role as internal audit service provider, with many discrepancies in Payroll (2 “high” and 6 “moderate), HR Recruitment and contract management (7 “high” and 3 “moderate”) and HR development (6 “high” and 3 “moderate”). (Presumably, high, moderate and low were levels of risk identified).
The BDO Report noted that while these KPMG Reports pointed to a need for greater control and oversight, they were only partially implemented, or in some cases, not at all.
Which begs the question, why were they not implemented if the University and USP Council were serious about good governance?
It is a wonder that the BDO Team did not consult Mr Ikbal Janif or Dame Fiame Mataafa, both of whom had been Deputy Chair and Chair of USP Council during the tenure of the former VC, and almost certainly would have been aware of governance irregularities at USP.
Why did the BDO Team not consult Dr Dilawar Grewal who had been terminated by the former VC, and who had sent a full Report of Complaints to the Chairman of USP Council (Winston Thompson)?
Was USP Council even given Grewal’s comprehensive Report and litany of complaints?
Lastly, even if the current Chair airily declares that the allegations against him were “minor” and he was ready to work with the reinstated VC Ahluwalia, surely USP Council must ask whether it is fair to VC Ahluwalia to ask him to continue to work under a Chair who so readily suspended him instead of praising him for being a brave whistleblower.
USP Council might wish to note that the glossy publication USP@50 whose production was overseen by Chair Thompson and former VC Chandra gave no hint of the huge systemic challenges that USP has faced over the years and still faces and did the reputation of its editor (supposedly a historian) no good at all. This crisis should surely encourage USP to commission a thorough review of this wonderful regional university, its evolution over the last fifty years, the challenges it has faced and continues to face going into the future. It would be a pity if at the end of this crisis, all the dirt was shoved back under the carpet and became “business as usual”.
THE AHLUWALIA REPORT
BUBBLE GUMMED TO HIS BUTT: Aiyaz Khaiyum's BULA BUBBLE is a mirage and no reduction in airfares will persuade the Aussie and Kiwi parents to send their children to holiday in Fiji. Live in own bubble, ASK!
He dragged out Fiji Airways CEO Andre Viljoen to "Budget Consultation” in the western division. But both failed to inform us that Fiji Airways is teetering on bankruptcy by the end of the year. Poor Viljoen is FORCED by Khaiyum to peddle a story about the elusive bubble that no-one believes. $200 off the airfare from Sydney? It isn’t about money, KHAIYUM, it’s about risk. And if the two think the mums and dads of Aussies and Kiwis will choose Fiji because of a $200 discount on their airfare, they are living in a bubble all of their own. The only passengers who might jump on the cheap flights will be former Fijian citizens wanting to catch up with relatives. He should ask his brother Riyaz Khaiyum, the FBC CEO, to send for confirmation with his favourite 'James Bond' SPY CAMERA PEN
THE ECONOMIST, ASIA Edition, 27 June
Pen and stink
A malfunctioning spy camera causes a scandal in Fiji. The state broadcaster recruited an undercover operative to snoop on the opposition.
“WE DON’T REALLY go in for that any more,” says a British spook witheringly of gadgets disguised as pens in “Skyfall”, a James Bond film. In Fiji, though, such devices have become a national fascination. A man called Ferrel Farizal Khan told the head of the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation, Riyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, that he was an undercover agent of sorts, running “Fiji Exposed”, an anonymous blog which features stories about the extramarital affairs of prominent politicians and businessmen.
Mr Khan also claimed that he was being paid by the two main opposition parties to publish anti-government stories and to hack into the national elections database to seek evidence of government ballot-rigging. So Mr Sayed-Khaiyum, who is the brother of the omnipresent attorney-general, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, equipped him with a camera disguised as a pen to record opposition figures misbehaving.
Mr Khan returned empty-handed, saying that the spy-pen had failed to work. By then, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum was becoming suspicious of the supposed double-agent, whom he reported to the police. They are duly investigating Mr Khan. But they also took his allegations seriously enough to raid the offices of the National Federation Party, one of the two opposition outfits, hunting for evidence of links to “Fiji Exposed”—to no avail.
ONE LAST FINGER-LICKING DIP INTO USP'S HONEY POT! BDO Report: Former VC Rajesh Chandra got Winston Thompson to sign off $20,000
He assured he didn't choose RMIT, a Melbourne university to write a book on USP because his children live in that city, 'Just a coincidence, Winston'. The BDO Report lifts bare the 'dhoti' of former VC Rajesh Chandra, once dubbed the 'Indian Maharaja' of USP
COMING SOON: How another Indo-Fijian chamcha Hasmukh Lal fleeced USP of $18,000 to obtain a DOCTORATE from distanced learning Atlantic International University in Hawaii after plagiarising another USP junior staff member's research. He is the brother of 'DR' Brij Lal, former FFP MP who also got his doctorate from the same online university and had become FFP spokesman on Fijian education, culture, art, and heritage
And this Sex Pervert Professor is still roaming around on USP Campus
HOLD THEM TO ACCOUNT: PETITION calls for all those implicated in the BDO Report under former VC Rajesh CHANDRA to be brought to book
You can read more and click, and sign the petition, here:
"The University Librarian as well as the Secertary-General of the Union were taken by the Police for questioning after campus rallies creating a culture of intimidation on campus. Ms Doras Traill has been vilified for going to FICAC. As a senior officer of the University she had a legal duty to report irregularities to FICAC, and to donor countries, as per the University's contractual agreements." - Ahluwalia
TURNING THE TABLE ON THE 'TURBANATOR': Mahmood Khan, Chair of Audit and Risk Committee claims Professor Pal Ahluwalia's Report was drafted by Professor Arvind Patel and yet Ahluwalia regarded as 'Author'
MAHMOOD KHAN on Professor Arvind Patel:
BELOW: The 121 pages long BDO Report
D-DAY FRIDAY 19 JUNE 9AM to 4PM
BELOW: Professor Ahluwalia's Damning 11 page Report that led to the BDO Report that had been kept secret from USP staff, students, and Fijian and Regional Island taxpayers
THE FERAL BROTHERS, FBC, AND FERREL KHAN: Did Riyaz Khaiyum arm-twist the career criminal into signing false Statutory Declaration to pursue his brother's political opponents or did CONMAN hoodwink him?
By providing Khan a 'James Bond type spy camera pen' is Riyaz Sayed-Khaiyum guilty of aiding and abetting the crime of ENTRAPMENT. Khan claims Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum was also present at the FBC meeting. The two brother's relentless pursuit of polical opponents and the cowardice of boot-licking Fijian journalists to hold the two FERALS to account saw them sprint to their newsrooms with Riyaz Sayed Khaiyum's Three Page Statutory of Declaration which is full of question marks. An examination of the Statutory Declaration should have revealed to the journalists that it belonged to the DUSTBIN. Why is the publicly paid FBC CEO Riyaz Khaiyum of the publicly funded national broacaster involving himself in partisan politics in the first place? He is behaving like a Minister of Information in an authoritian government, not the head of a supposedly impartial state-funded broadcaster in a democracy
And just look at their pattern of behaviour - now it is Khan and not the Khaiyums - who is the subject of Fiji Police investigation! Diving for cover after being conned, Riyaz Khaiyum is now playing the VICTIM, by reporting Khan to Police, cheesed off that Khan didn't come back with entrapment videos of Biman Prasad and Sitiveni Rabuka, instead disappearing with the FBC's 'James Bond style spy camera pen'.
Full story and analysis soon. How Khan went into his own fake Fiji Exposed Forum website, edited and manipulated it, and how the fool Riyaz Sayed Khaiyum screamed "GOTCHA BOYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
The Khaiyum Brothers $22million Bank Loan to set up FBC TV