‘In our best interests’: Unitech council details reasons for Dr Schram’s termination & says due process was followed
PORT MORESBY – Jean Kekedo (pictured), the Acting Chancellor of the Papua New Guinea University of Technology, Sunday afternoon issued a statement on behalf of the Unitech Council on the termination of Vice-Chancellor Dr Albert Schram for alleged serious misconduct and breach of his employment contract.
Ms Kekedo said the Council made a unanimous decision last Thursday to terminate Dr Schram’s contract with immediate effect, adding that the Council consisted of “very learned people of standing in the society hence the decision was made after considering all the materials and following due process.”
The statement said that “on 19 January 2018, Council made a unanimous decision to charge Dr Schram with 21 allegations. As per the term of his contract of employment, Dr Schram was given seven working days to respond to the allegations. During the term of his suspension, he was allowed to access his office to prepare his reply although his powers as VC were suspended.
“Council also suggested to Dr Schram to consider resigning quietly if he considered the allegations serious. He refused to do so. On 30 January 2018, Dr Schram submitted his response to the Council through the Registrar. The materials constituting the allegations and responses were forwarded to a private lawyer for an independent legal advice. The advice was furnished on time. Council reconvened on 15 February 2018 at 9:30am.”
At this meeting, the Council reviewed the documents before it for some hours before seeking the advice of the independent lawyer. Dr Schram was then called in to add to his written response and clarify Council members’ issues.
The Council deliberated for another two hours before resolving to terminate Dr Schram’s employment.
The statement (Download Public Statement by Unitech Council) said the main allegations sustained by the Council were:
1 - Non-provision of verified academic credentials. The Council stated “we cannot allow a VC whose own qualifications are seriously doubted” and said it “considered Dr Schram’s behaviour as not only a serious breach of a mandatory condition of his contract, but deceitful.”
2 - Constant overseas trips on vague university business. “Dr Schram’s entire term in office is littered with constant absence,” the statement said. “He spends more time overseas than at the workplace… without prior Council approval and without showing the relevance of such overseas forays to the business of the university.” The statement cited a number of cases and said that, despite requests to regularise and constrain travel arrangements, Dr Schram “resisted and failed to do so satisfactorily.”
This section of the statement concluded by saying “All his travel reports perpetuate with promise of future benefits that do not materialise…. It’s a case of forever married to hope and divorced from reality!”
3 - Engagement of consultants. The statement alleged that Dr Schram “engaged incompetent consultants to cover up for him whilst he was away overseas” and cited a number of cases where this had occurred. “The engagement of incompetent consultants and retainer arrangements on one-off tasks demonstrates that Dr Schram was at best incompetent, at worst dishonest,” this section concluded.
4 - Engagement of private lawyers to represent personal interests. The statement said that in November last year, “knowing that Council was going to question him for his constant overseas travels, Dr Schram engaged a private law firm at Unitech’s expense to attend Council meeting and take the minutes of Council, as well as be his lawyer”. The Council found this to show “a serious breach of duty and disrespect to Council”.
The statement further said there were “a number of allegations that have criminal implications that Council will refer to the police” and it also anticipated the consideration of other serious allegations related to an investigation report into the student unrest of 2016 and a deal with the University of South Pacific to offer its MBA course at Unitech when Unitech already had its own.
The statement said that Dr Schram has been given a week to prepare and leave the university campus and that Unitech is preparing his repatriation. It appointed Dr Ora Renagi, as Acting Vice Chancellor until the position is advertised and a new VC is appointed.
In its concluding remarks, the Council said that “the allegations in this disciplinary action had been raised in Council from time to time but had never been formally put to Dr Schram to respond. Despite the many warnings and criticisms in Council, the impunity grew unabated hence Council initiated the disciplinary process which eventually resulted in the termination.
“Council considered all the factors and resolved that terminating Dr Schram was the best decision under the circumstances. The decision was in the best interest of the University!”