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Multiple irregularities in defunct French Pacific

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PARIS (Oceania Flash/Pasifik Nius): The French Auditor-General Department (Cour des Comptes) has pointed out "multiple irregularities" during the 12 years of operation of the now-defunct Université Française du Pacifique (UFP), Oceania Flash reports.

UFP was set up in 1987 and was originally based both in New Caledonia and French Polynesia, with the goal of providing regional higher education opportunities to students in the French Pacific territories.

UFP closed in 1999, giving way to two separate institutions, the Université de Nouvelle-Calédonie (UNC) in Nouméa and the Université de Polynésie in Pape'ete.

The Cour des Comptes, in its annual report, said UFP’s "irregularities" were "gravely detrimental to UFP's mission" and "contributed to an increase in its operational costs."

The French public funds auditing office goes even further, labeling as "illegal" the very status under which UFP was set up in the first place.

It also points out that during its 12 years of operation, UFP had chronically been "irregular" in its administrative and financial management.

Occurrences of misuse of funds totaling two million French Francs (US$281,191) and a budget that had doubled in the final five years of its existence were also noted.

The three French ministries in charge of UFP (Finance, Education and Overseas) are reported to have approved the Cour des Compte's analysis.

They said the split-up of UFP into two separate entities largely contributes to "solving the problem."

In the same annual report, the auditors also were critical of the way the French Secretariat of State for Overseas Territories used French assistance funds through its Economic and Social Investment Fund (FIDES).

Under this fund, an inter-island ferry for travel between Nouméa and the Loyalty Islands, the "Yeweiné Yeweiné," was purchased by the Loyalty Islands province. It cost some 60 million French Francs (US$8,435,730) instead of the anticipated 28 million French Francs (US$ 3,936,674). It was then sold only a few years later for 3.4 million French Francs (US$ 478,025), after the operating company had gone bankrupt.


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