Awema race equality charity inquiry concerns raised

The author of an independent report into a race equality charity says he has not been contacted by the Welsh government to discuss his findings.

The All Wales Ethnic Minority Association (Awema) has been criticised over allegations of financial irregularities and staff bullying.

The Welsh government is due to complete its report into Awema next week.

In the meantime, Awema chief executive Naz Malik says it would be inappropriate for him to comment.

The charity deals with nearly £8.5m of public money, passing it on to other ethnic minority groups in Wales.

An independent report recommended Mr Malik be suspended pending a disciplinary hearing. He received a written warning.

The Welsh government is investigating the allegations and producing its own report.

But the author of the independent report, Paul Dunn, said he had yet to be contacted or asked to share his evidence, along with people at the charity.

Darren Millar AM, chair of the assembly's Public Accounts Committee, called the news "absolutely astonishing".

Mr Dunn told BBC Radio Wales: "Nobody has been in touch yet. I am sure they will be before too long.

"The same goes for the Charity Commission, the police.

"Nobody from any organisation has been in touch with me about the evidence that I've got."

Awema's trustees commissioned the inquiry by Mr Dunn, the former head of an ethnic minority charity in England.

Mr Millar has written to South Wales Police asking them to investigate.

He said: "Mr Dunn has collated very important evidence about the allegations which have been made into financial impropriety at the organisation.

'Losing confidence'

"And to contact him this late in the day when they are about to publish a report next week seems to be pretty negligent really in terms of the ongoing investigation which is taking place."

Mr Millar said he had written to police asking them to investigate after hearing that people at Awema, including trustees and the treasurer, had not yet been contacted as part of the investigation.

"I just think that people are losing confidence rapidly in the ability of the Welsh government to get to the bottom of the situation," he said.

South Wales Police said in a statement: "South Wales Police received allegations of fraud in mid-December and the matter was passed to the Welsh government to carry out its own audit and internal investigation.

"We are currently awaiting the outcome of that process when we will then be able to consider whether any criminal offences have been committed."

Awema's newly appointed chair Dr Rita Austin told Thursday's BBC Wales Dragon's Eye programme that she had made difficult decisions for the charity's benefit.

Credit card debts

Over recent weeks Mr Malik has been accused of financial irregularities and bullying staff.

Dr Austin said that to suspend Mr Malik would have incurred great cost.

"I have to make these judgements on behalf of the charity as I see fit," she told the programme.

Mr Malik says it would be inappropriate for him to comment until investigations are concluded.

The allegations centre around Mr Malik and his daughter, Tegwen Malik, Awema's operations director.

Mr Dunn's report concluded:

  • Mr Malik used "Awema funds in an inappropriate way", including paying off credit card debts worth £9,340
  • Mr Malik "has increased his own benefits package without due openness or transparency". This includes Mr Malik's salary being increased to £65,719 without approval from the board
  • Mr Malik "has authorised inappropriate payments, expenses and purchases, which may constitute gross misconduct"
  • Mr Malik's daughter Tegwen Malik "has been employed, and promoted on a number of occasions, without any internal or external competition". It is alleged her salary increased from £20,469 in January 2008 to £50,052 in August 2011
  • Regular claims are made for relatively expensive meals and hotels, including alcoholic drinks
  • The treatment of some junior staff was so poor that it contravened their human rights

The report recommends Mr Malik and his daughter should be "suspended immediately, pending a disciplinary inquiry and hearing".

Both remain in post having received a written and verbal warning.

Earlier this week, the Welsh government's permanent secretary Dame Gillian Morgan told Mr Millar's committee that Awema should have been graded "high risk".

The Charity Commission has said previously that it had received a serious incident report from Awema's trustees and had asked to be kept informed of the Welsh government's findings.

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