Awema: Welsh government accused of funding negligence

Awema report Ministers have defended their response to the Awema report

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The Welsh government has come under fire for its response to a report about the funding it gave the disgraced race equality charity Awema.

Opposition AMs forced Finance Minister Jane Hutt to answer emergency questions in the chamber on Tuesday.

They accused ministers of "political negligence" and of avoiding making a statement about the loss of public money.

Ms Hutt said the government was following "due process".

She told AMs in the Senedd chamber that improving the way the Welsh government pays out grants is the responsibility of its most senior civil servant

Swansea-based Awema received more than £7m of public funding over a decade - some £500,000 of which is unlikely to be recovered following the charity's demise in February.

Start Quote

It is shameful that a minister had to be hauled in front of the assembly in this way”

End Quote Peter Black AM Liberal Democrat

A Wales Audit Office (WAO) report has said the Welsh government failed to heed warnings about the way Awema was run.

In the wake of the report last week, permanent secretary Derek Jones said a grants management project was established in September 2010.

Ms Hutt said there were "lessons to be learned" from the report, but said the Welsh government was following "due process" by waiting for the assembly's public accounts committee to consider the WAO's findings before giving its response.

'Responsibility'

She said: "Let me make this quite clear, as we see from the results of the Wales Audit Office, it is quite clear it is the responsibility of the permanent secretary to ensure that our grants management project is implemented fully.

"I have answered all questions on this matter to ensure that indeed the Welsh government and the permanent secretary leading on this has delivered in terms of due diligence for the sector."

She pointed to a WAO finding that it had seen no evidence of "inappropriate" political influence over funding decisions.

Liberal Democrat AM Peter Black, who tabled the urgent question, said: "It is shameful that a minister had to be hauled in front of the assembly in this way.

"Welsh government ministers continue to hide behind what they call 'protocol'."

Conservative AM Paul Davies said it was "time for more accountability, it's now time for more responsibility and certainly it's time for due diligence".

'Shambles'

He asked: "Minister, can you confirm on record that a fiasco like this will never, ever happen again while you are the minister for finance and do you take full responsibility for this public funding disaster and shambles?"

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.

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

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