Awema: Welsh government lacked 'high-risk' warning

Awema report Opposition AMs want ministers to faced questions in the Senedd about Awema

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The Welsh government had no way of highlighting that a now defunct race equality charity was high risk, auditors have said.

It comes after the Wales Audit Office (WAO) criticised the government's management of funding for the All-Wales Ethnic Minority Association (Awema).

The charity received more than £7m over a decade.

Meanwhile, opponents are pressing ministers to come to the Senedd chamber to answer questions about Awema.

A WAO report says the Welsh government failed to heed a number of warnings about the way Swansea-based Awema was run.

In evidence to the assembly's public accounts committee, Mike Usher, of the WAO, referred to comments by former permanent secretary Dame Gill Morgan who told the same committee in January that Awema should have been graded as a "high-risk organisation".

Mr Usher told AMs on Monday: "The simple fact is that the Welsh government had no mechanism in place that would actually have allowed it to make that assessment and thus adopt a suitable approach to its grant monitoring and relationship management."

Awema: The allegations

  • A Welsh government inquiry found a "clear conflict of interest" because one of the charity's directors reporting to former chief executive Naz Malik was his daughter Tegwen. There were "considerable increases" in her salary from £20,469 in January 2008 to £50,052 in August 2011.
  • It said charity funds were used to pay for gym memberships for staff worth £2,120, £800 was spent on rugby and cricket tickets and a £110 parking fine for Mr Malik was paid.
  • An earlier report, commissioned by the charity's trustees, said Mr Malik used funds inappropriately and paid off credit card debts worth £9,340.
  • It also alleged that his salary was increased to £65,719 without approval from the board.
  • Mr Malik "increased his own benefits package without due openness or transparency", it said.

Despite gaps in the paper trail, the Welsh government held a lot of information about Swansea-based Awema, he said.

'Disjointed'

However, it was held on files in different departments leading to a failure in "knowledge management".

"It created, in essence a disjointed approach, both between departments and also over time," Mr Usher said.

The WAO says the Welsh government should think about starting a "customer relationship management system" to improve the way it gives out grants.

"It's a means by which life would be a lot easier for them in sharing information," Mr Usher told AMs.

The WAO inquiry only looked at the Welsh government's relationship with Awema, not at the internal workings of the charity which have been the subject of police and charity commission investigations.

The report's authors told AMs they found no evidence of inappropriate political influence over decisions to fund Awema.

Mr Usher said there had been a "collective failure in the administration over time to respond effectively to issues that were clearly there".

Administrators were called in to wind up the charity's affairs after a Welsh government report said there was a "fundamental lack of control" in February.

It said charity funds were used to pay for gym membership for staff worth £2,120, rugby and cricket tickets totalling £800, and a £110 parking fine for former chief executive Naz Malik.

South Wales Police has investigated allegations of dishonesty by Awema personnel and a file has gone to the Crown Prosecution Service.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have called for an urgent debate in the assembly on Awema.

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