Awema: Trustees 'had to resign after concerns ignored'

Naz Malik
Image caption Naz Malik was sacked as chief executive of Awema in February

Trustees at race equality charity Awema may have had no choice but to resign after their concerns were ignored, assembly members have heard.

Graham Benfield of the Wales Council for Voluntary Action said the resignation of trustees of a body was a "warning sign" of internal problems.

Awema was wound up in March after its public funding was withdrawn following claims of financial mismanagement.

Police are investigating allegations of dishonesty among the body's staff.

Awema's chief executive Naz Malik and finance director Saquib Zia were sacked in February.

It came after a report into the Welsh government-funded body said there was a "fundamental lack of control" there.

Internal auditors in the Welsh government inquiry found a "complete lack of oversight of the financial processes and controls" at the Swansea-based charity.

The findings of the Welsh government and Big Lottery Fund report into the spending of £8.4m in public funding have been examined by South Wales Police.

Mr Benfield was giving evidence on Tuesday to the Welsh assembly's Public Accounts Committee investigation into grants management.


He told AMs: "Certainly in the Awema situation, you can see trustees acting over the years, probably quite responsibly in alerting, in being concerned about things, and them feeling that they were not being dealt with, and that they had no alternative but to resign.

"I mean, if you are a trustee, then what else can you do?

"There is quite a lot of evidence, I suggest, that when people do approach, when they do express their concerns, particularly if they are trustees, their concerns are not taken as seriously as they should be."

The Wales Audit Office is currently carrying out a full audit of all of Awema's spending on behalf of the Welsh government.

The Welsh government gave it several million pounds in grants over the past decade, after concerns about alleged irregularities arose last year.

Aled Roberts, Liberal Democrat AM for North Wales, said he was concerned that repeated warnings about potential problems at Awema, and other organisations such as the Communities First partnership in Plas Madoc, had been ignored and funding continued to flow to them despite concerns from trustees and others.

Mr Benfield said that recent events such as these had acted as a "wake up call" for the sector in terms of ensuring good governance - but he was confident that such problems were not widespread.

"While it is a very good wake up call, I think, to everybody in the sector to look at their governance, to refresh their governance, I don't think there's sufficient evidence to say there is widespread bad governance in the sector," he said.

"I don't think we are going to see - and I say this with some caution - a whole stream of situations that we have seen recently."

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