Wales politics

Welsh Government Sport Wales review finds 'bullying' evidence

Sport Wales

Evidence supporting allegations of bullying, intimidation and inappropriate language in the troubled quango Sport Wales has been found by an internal Welsh Government review.

The chairman of Sport Wales Paul Thomas and vice-chairwoman Adele Baumgardt were sacked by ministers in March.

Mr Thomas said the allegations were untrue but Ms Baumgardt said she was not surprised by the findings.

No individuals were identified as the source of the alleged bullying.

Sport Wales, originally called the Sports Council for Wales, was created in 1972 to promote elite and grassroots sport. It has an annual budget of £22m.

Since autumn 2016, it has been embroiled in a series of rows over the operations of its board.

The Welsh Government review into the running of the organisation was ordered by Public Health Minister Rebecca Evans.

A redacted version of this review, which concluded before the firing of Sport Wales' senior officials, has now been released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Image copyright Welsh Government
Image caption Chairman Paul Thomas was sacked by the Welsh Government in March

The review had been completed in February, the previous month, but had not been made public.

It said there was no evidence of any conflicts of interest by board members and ruled claims that procurement policies were not followed were "not significant".

These concerns had been raised by an audit of Sport Wales by accountants Deloitte, obtained by BBC Wales in March, which claimed it risked damaging its reputation in the way it awarded contracts.

But the Welsh Government review states there were "concerns about social bullying", without linking the allegations to an individual.

The review said: "For example, instances of deliberate exclusion resulting in individuals feeling unable to carry out their roles effectively; intimidatory emails sent in response to queries or perceived challenge; discussing confidential and in some cases unsubstantiated issues with third parties; language; and body language and demeanour that interviewees felt was inappropriate."

"During conversations with interviewees, the review team identified evidence that supported these concerns," the review added.

Sport Wales board meeting minutes have also revealed allegations of "retaliatory behaviour" in the organisation.

Image caption The assurance review had been ordered by Public Health Minister Rebecca Evans

Minutes of the 22 November board meeting, where a unanimous no-confidence vote was taken in the chairman, said Ms Baumgardt "noted that all board members had approached her to discuss a motion of no confidence in the chair due to serious failings in his leadership and governance".

"The vice chair explained that due to previous incidents of retaliatory behaviour, board members were concerned about individual consequences," the document added, not linking the allegation to an individual.

The motion was "not the first formal communication from the board to the chair relating to the way in which he had been carrying out his duties," the minutes added.

Ms Baumgardt said her behaviour had been professional and above board.

She said she was "not surprised" by the review's findings, adding: "I'm glad that these things are out in the public domain."

Ms Baumgardt has previously accused Mr Thomas of not being fit to hold senior public office, an allegation he has rejected.

Since being fired, Mr Thomas has claimed he has been "hung out to dry" as a whistle-blower.

However, a letter written by First Minister Carwyn Jones to Welsh Tory leader Andrew RT Davies regarding allegations made by Mr Thomas, said its interim chairman Lawrence Conway had found the organisation to be "well-governed" and "well-run".

'Untrue and make-believe'

Mr Thomas told BBC Wales the allegations outlined in the review were not true.

"I'm just gobsmacked at some of the stuff that they're coming out with," he said. "It's just so untrue and make-believe. It's quite funny actually."

He claimed it was "orchestrated" so that his own review into the organisation "would be buried".

A draft version of the review by Mr Thomas, which was seen by the BBC last year, had warned Sport Wales that it needed a major overhaul.

It was accused of being "obsolete in its thinking" and "weak in vision".

Both Sport Wales and the Welsh Government said they had no comment.

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