The Members of the Interim Council of the University of Goroka and its interim Management is in agreement to present a short Report for the end of the year ending this Thursday 31st of December 2015 on the operations of the University of Goroka since our swearing in and commissioning into office on Wednesday 23rd September 2015.
The interim arrangements was put together to save and revive, what has appeared generally to be an almost failing state institution of higher education by the Minister for Higher Education. A Government sponsored intervention was necessary. There were selective steps taken An Investigation Committee was appointed which looked at the causes of the 2015 Student led boycott of academic and research programme at second semester; the an appointment was made of Interim Council after revocation of the previous Council. A new Management was appointed with Associate Professor, Dr John Kola was appointed the Acting Vice Chancellor. Dr Kola is on special arrangements agreed to between the Interim Council of UOG and the management of the University of Papua New Guinea.
Those arrangements and understandings were done some nine months ago. Under the new Higher Education Act that came into force in October 2014, the Government intervened and exercised control and supervision through the powers of the Interim Council. This exercise never tried before has been the first litmus test for the Minister in the application of specific provisions of the Higher Education (General Provisions) Act 2014.
For the record, and in the short history of existence UOG, since 1997, this is the first time ever to have a Minister successfully carried out an operation that was specifically aimed at rescuing a University from collapsing. How did he do this? The operation details were planned, supervised, executed and monitored from the Office of the Minister for Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology. This report is based on a detailed execution of a master plan.
The operations that followed the aftermath of the Black Thursday of 27th August, 2015 can be seen as significant for the University in some respects. Since the minders of the rescue package were aware of the risks factor (given the past history of court cases and obvious reluctance on the part of previous councils and their top management teams from acting of official reports). Before anything was anticipated and planned for UOG to address the students’ boycott insight knowledge and past experience was critical to any operations plan.
By its own initiative the Council has undertaken to study past reports on the UOG by Nicholas Kuman (sanctioned by Council in 2002) and Michael Gene (sanctioned by a former Minister in 2010), and at the time the UOG 2015 operations begun, it had at hand the fresh Andrew Kwimberi Report (sanctioned by the current Minister and was available in October 2015). The total operational rescue mission took a total of 100 days from 23rd September to 31st of December 2015.Every step of the way, from following the due diligence, exercising the powers under the UOG Act and statues therein, all acts or omission in respect of performing public duties for and on behalf of the University were fair and within the law.
In 270 days or 9 months the Minister’s appointed interim council and the management team appointed by the council have delivered to the stakeholders a revived and reenergised The University of Goroka, and from the public perception the UOG was an already collapsed and failed University. However, the work needed to make the turnaround has been fast and smooth sailing.
In the collective knowledge and experience of the team that make up the council and the management, it is known that in past years thet Higher Education Ministers have been unable to act on situations very similar to the 2015 in UOG, because governments and their ministers did not have such powers to intervene in real practical ways. This has allowed university councils and their administrations to get away with conditions prevailing and prevalent in the publicly funded universities for well over thirty years. Monies have been wasted and problems such as the staff or students boycotts have lingered on for decades.
The Interim Council of UOG was gazetted and sworn in on the 23rd of September 2015. Soon after the swearing-in ceremony, the Council met and decided on a number of serious challenges on the ground. One of which was bring normalcy on the ground; assure the state that the resumption of lectures and academic related tasks will be resumed immediately, and that semester two for 2015 will be commenced and all students will complete their required programmes of studies as planned.
Actions Taken following the 2015 Kwimberi Report
Upon receipt of the “Draft Preliminary Report of Investigation Committee into UOG Student Unrest” In order to do all that was necessary, a new management team was put in place and given precise and tight deadlines on specific urgent tasks and responses expected within given time. This has followed the appointment of the interim council- for example; on the agenda was the appointment of an acting Vice Chancellor and acting Pro Vice Chancellor within the first day of the council business. The new administration was basically and principally tasked to quickly regain command and control and manage the worsening situation on the ground, with students refusing to go to lectures, with threats to lives and property on the campus.
Upon the lawful takeover of the University of Goroka by the Interim Council and its newly appointed administration, and within the four months, that is from 23rd September to December 31st it is the highly considered view that UOG Council and the its Administration have worked very hard to return normalcy back on campus.
Here are the brief highlights of the Decisions and Actions of the Interim Council and the Administration for the first 100 days.
Appointment of Interim Council
Following the gazettal and swearing of the interim council members at the University, in the presence of the Minister, UOG community and the media the council immediately met on Wednesday 23rd September 2015.
Appointment of Acting Vice Chancellor and Pro Vice Chancellor
The Council moved to quickly to appoint the Acting Vice Chancellor, Associate Professor John Kola and Dr Samuel Kopamu as his Deputy. Dr Kola is on one year secondment from the University of Papua New Guinea, while Dr Kopamu was appointed from among the senior members of the UOG academic community.
Suspension of Pro Vice Chancellors
After the interim management was appointed the Council then moved to suspend the two former TMT members- Drs Michael Mel and Dr James Yoko who were the subject of the investigation commissioned by the Minister for Higher Education, Research, Science an Technology. Their suspension followed an earlier decision by the Minister to terminate former council and also suspended the former Vice Chancellor, Dr Gairo Onagi.
Extension of Semester 2 to end of November 2015
Among its priority activities in the first meeting the Council also approved an extension of semester 2 to end of November. This has allowed all students across all programmes of studies to complete their studies sit for final examinations and have them graded to either graduate next year or continue with studies to the next level.
Suspension and subsequent actions on the Deans of Schools of Education and Humanities
In the following series of meetings the council was informed of, and become obviously aware and concerned with what was happening on the ground. Therefore as an authority it was desirous of an urgent need to bring order and control as well as restore some sense of trust and confidence among the rank and file of the staff, especially among the senior academics.
The Deans of schools are part of the top management, in this instance they took sides and have written to higher authorities other than the council and castigated at the manner in which the Minister was going about establishing the interim council, the Deans made statements that deemed to have undermined the efforts of all parties- from the Minister down to the Interim Council and the Vice Chancellor who were making serious attempts to normalise UOG. Factions of staff led by the Deans of Education and Humanities have shown their unwillingness to cooperate, instead they brought up reasons for not complying with directions; even then these reasons or complaints were unacceptable to either the council or the management.
The urgent business of UOG at that juncture was for all to work in harmony to restore normalcy and return all students to lecture rooms by 21st of September 2015. Any other matters were deemed subsidiary and/or unimportant.
Subsequently, following internal investigations and with information available to the Management, these were made available to the UOG Staff Disciple Committee met and removed Dr Sam Kari, the Dean of Humanities and had him terminated for cause; the Dean of Education was stood down as Dr Kelep Malpo as the Dean and had her reverted back to her substantive position.
The Ministerial Investigation Committee Report was released
On October 9th 2015 a preliminary Report of the Investigation Committee was delivered to the Minister. Upon receipt of the Report, the Minister then wrote to the Chancellor of the Interim Council of Goroka urging him to study the Report and its recommendations and take whatever actions are necessary to restore UOG to its usual operating condition and prominence. From experience and speaking for all members of the Council and its management, it was the most testing time for all- we could make it or break it! At the end the authority of the Council prevailed.
The rest of the most crucial administrative responsibilities and tasks (taking account of the damning Report by the Independent Investigators into the 2015 UOG Student Boycott) was codenamed mop up operations (MUO). These included careful analysis of the Report and the framing of the charges to the three top management team members: Dr Gairo Onagi, Dr Michael Mel and Dr James Yoko. The three responded to the charges, but the council found these to be shallow, no credible and convincing answers to show for their decisions on the use or misuse of public funds, including “double dipping”, nepotism and curtailing of freedom of speech and association (staff and students). It has come (from the Report) to the attention of Council that there have been constant and repeated diversions of large sums of public funds to paying the former Members of the Top Management Team. That these monies were received in addition to receiving salaries under their respective contracts- all these amounted to double dipping.
Termination of Gute Security Service Company at UOG campus operations
The Ministerial Investigation Committee found that there was no proper contract entered into between Gute Security and the University. What appeared to be a contract is actually an MOU. For an MOU for K2.7 million of public funds should have gone through the scrutiny of a legally constituted Tenders and Supplies Board of UOG. One of the items that constituted charges against the Vice Chancellor and his two deputies was to do with the Gute Security. The Council reached the verdict of terminating engaging Gute Security.
Writ of Summons Served on the Minister and Others by the former TMT members.
On Monday 2nd November 2015 UOG Council and its administration was served with copies of an originating summons by the aggrieved members of the former TMT members. The OS sought the courts to grant orders to review the actions of the Minister in terminating the former council, suspended the former Vice Chancellor. By extension of that order the plaintiffs sought orders to the functioning of the interim council and its management. At the set date of hearing, December 4th 2015 the plaintiff’s counsel sought from the national court sitting in Goroka to discontinue the case.
Council moved to terminate for cause members of the TMT
Charges emanating from the findings of the Ministerial Investigation Committee were laid and served on the former TMT members on Friday 30th of October 2015, and were given seven days to reply. By the 6th of November replies were received and analysed by the Council. On Monday 23rd November 2015 the Council, after having discussed the responses which were not convincing decided to terminate the three former TMT members.
Eviction of former TMT members from University
An exercise ordered by the Council to evict the former TMT member was commenced on Tuesday 7th December 2015 which lasted for about 12 hours. By morning of the next day all former TMT member have left the premises of the University.
End of the year Christmas Party for all staff and their families witnessed by Council and Administration
On Thursday 17th December 2015 the Vice Chancellor, Dr John Kola authorised a general end of the year dinner for all staff and their families. Speeches were made to confirm and thank all who have made it possible to conclude the 2015 academic year successfully. Mr Tony Aimo represented the Minister’s Office. He spoke about the reasons for taking the interventions measures by the Minister to bring normalcy back to UOG, and thanked the Council and its administration for taking all actions within the bounds of law to conclude all academic programmes and activities for 2015.
The Dawn of a new Era at UOG
Preparations in earnest were put in place for the new academic year in 2016 by the Interim Council and its Management Team during the period of Christmas and New Year. A smart and well calculated well-coordinated exercise was effected to usher in the 2016 academic year. The rest is now history, but suffice to say that the academic year for 2016 started off well without hitch, a record number of new students were enrolled, and a mega 19th anniversary graduation has been planned, with the nation’s Chief Executive Office, the Prime Minister, Peter O’ Neill accepting to be the principal guest speaker for the occasion.
It is the will of all good people with their prayers and optimism that brought on a successful conclusion to a University that was falling fast down the destructive path. Here we take time to acknowledge and thank the Minister, Hon. Malakai Tabar, his Departmental Secretary, Professor David Kavanamur and to the Office of the Chief Secretary for taking keen interests in the events unfolding with his consent and support, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Papua New Guinea, Professor Albert Mellam for agreeing on short notice to release one of his very senior academic colleagues Associate John Kola to take up the post of Acting Vice Chancellor at the time it seemed a beleaguered University of Goroka needed such understanding.
A special mention and commendation is due to the three resourceful, but adamant Ministerial Investigation Committee led by Andrew Kwimberi, with members composed of Philip Leo and Gerard Dogimab to bring out the truth about a University operation under a shroud misdeeds. Not least but to acknowledge and commend all the Members of the Interim Council and to the small but firm and effective team of UOG Administration led by the Acting Vice Chancellor. Without which much would not have been accomplished to date.
Complied for and on behalf of the Interim Council and its Management.
Chancellor, Interim Council, University of Goroka
 Details of this plan may form the basis of a book to be written by a commissioned author. A chapter of this book should be devoted to “Strategies for mitigating future uprisings on university campuses in PNG”.
Mr. Joseph Sukwainomb
Chancellor of UOG and Chairman of the Council
MA (Education), Kenyatta University, Nairobi, Kenya
B.Ed., University of PNG
Dr. Julienne Kaman
PhD in Peace Studies, University of New England, Armidale, NSW, Australia
Mr. Lawrence Titimur
LLB, University of PNG, Lawyer & Consultant – Labour& Industrial Relations
Alfred Tivinarlik, CFC, PhD, OL
PhD., Education Administration, University of Iowa, USA
Mr. Stephen Rere
Bachelor in Agriculture, UPNG
Mr. Leslie Hoffman
Chairman - National Gaming Control Board, PNG
Professor Musawe Sinebare
PhD, M.Info Tech (Wollongong); M.Ed.(Birmingham), and B.Ed (UPNG)
Mr. Pascalis Channel Mape
Executive Officer to Vice Chancellor and Council
BEd Admin, Policy and Planning, UOG, GOROKA, Papua New Guinea