Government will address SINU debt crisis: PM Hou

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By Alfred Sasako

 

PRIME Minister Rick Houenipwela has assured the management of the Solomon Islands National University (SINU) that he will take up the University’s growing debt problem with Caucus, it was revealed this week.

Members of Parliament owe the University $14 million in Constituency Scholarship Fund, according to SINU.

The money was paid to Members of Parliament, who in turn, assured the University that they would meet the tuition fees of students from their constituencies.

But since the Prime Minister had given the assurance a week ago, SINU’s financial woes appears to have hit the lower end of crisis management, forcing management to consider carrying its October 31 deadline.

As the situation worsens, insiders told Island Sun in some school lecturers stayed away from work yesterday.

“We waited all day but no lecturer turned up,” one student spoken to said.

But the acting Vice Chancellor, Professor (Dr) Prem Rai told Island Sun: “As far as I know lectures have been held as normal at both campuses. Your information on lecturers not turning up for classes is incorrect.

Staff salaries have been paid on time as scheduled and this has no connection with any other issues, Prof Rai said.

He said that in their meeting, the Prime Minister had been sympathetic with SINU’s predicament and promised to take it up with Caucus.

Prof Rai said since the meeting, some small payment had come through.

But insiders said the situation has hardly improved.

Now SINU faces the grim prospect of carrying out its threat to take further action come 31st October, just a little over a week from now.

In a statement issued on October 14, SINU said it faced “severe cash flow problems for the months of October to December” due to non-payment of fees.

It said the consequence of this is that SINU is not in a position to meet its commitment to Students Course Materials, cost of students’ meals, utilities, staff leave passage, repairs and maintenance and so on.

“To date the following corporate sponsors are yet to settle the school fees for (the) First Semester and Second Semester 2018.

  • Constituency Scholarship Fund through Members of Parliament – $14 million
  • Guadalcanal Province Education Authority – $8 million
  • Private and Self-Sponsored Students    – $6 million

Total = $28 million,” the statement said.

“In addition several government ministries are yet to settle the school fees totalling $12.8million for Second Semester 2018. In general, the total outstanding fees are $40.8 million, the statement said.

SINU has set October 31 as the deadline for settling the outstanding debts.

“Failure to act may lead the University to take hard and unpleasant decisions,” the October-14 statement said.

It is understood SINU is expected to issue a statement later this week on its proposed course of action.

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