All Wales Ethnic Minority Association: Darren Millar urges police inquiry
A prominent member of the Welsh assembly says police should investigate allegations of financial corruption at Wales' leading race relations body.
Public Accounts Committee chair Darren Millar spoke after the Welsh government suspended funding to the All Wales Ethnic Minority Association (Awema).
It has already suspended over £3m in grants to Awema while it investigates.
Awema chief executive Naz Malik has said he cannot comment, but will respond at a later date to the claims.
It follows allegations of corruption and nepotism made in a report for the charity seen by BBC Wales' Dragon's Eye programme.
The allegations concern Mr Malik, claiming he used the organisation's funds inappropriately, increasing his own benefits package and employing his daughter without adequate openness or transparency.
The Charity Commission said on Friday that it had asked to meet Awema's trustees to discuss what they were doing to "manage the current concerns regarding the charity", including its long-term funding.
It said it had received a serious incident report from Awema's trustees and had asked to be kept informed of the Welsh government's findings.
Conservative AM Mr Miller said he would welcome a formal police investigation, claiming that some of the allegations are criminal in nature.
In a statement, South Wales Police said they were "aware of the situation which is under evaluation at this moment in time".
Mr Millar said previous investigations had been held into Awema by the Welsh government, which suggested a number of changes.
"It appears that lessons may not have been learned by those previous investigations," he told BBC Radio Wales, adding that it "doesn't give the public confidence that this latest investigation is going to deliver the results which might be needed".
He said some of the allegations were "very serious".
"And that's why I think it's now time for the police to step in and conduct a thorough and full investigation," he said.
Previous investigations had "made a number of recommendations about the management at Awema, about the way in which money was being handed to Awema, and expenses being paid at Awema and about the government's arrangements there".
"It just doesn't seem, given the latest allegations, that many of those recommendations were followed up.
"The Welsh government has got a number of questions it needs to answer over the whole experience."
A Welsh government spokesman said it was investigating "to ensure the public funding which has been provided has been properly spent and can be accounted for".
"Consistent with the Big Lottery Fund, the Welsh government and Welsh European Funding Office have suspended all payments to Awema pending the outcome of the investigation.
"Welsh government officials have been liaising with South Wales Police regarding the allegations. It would be inappropriate therefore to make any further comment at this time."
BBC Wales' Dragon's Eye programme has reported that the Welsh European Funding Office (Wefo) is holding back £3m from Awema, which receives £8.4m of public money, including European and Lottery funding.
The decision could have implications for bodies that are in turn funded by Swansea-based Awema, which says its principal objectives include promoting equality and racial harmony.
A report by Dr Paul Dunn, the former head of an equality body in England, lists accusations against Mr Malik, including that he approved his own pay rise without authority.
It is also alleged that his daughter, Tegwen Malik, was given a job and promoted on several occasions "without any internal or external competition".
Written and verbal warning
Dr Dunn's report concludes:
- 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 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.
Awema chairwoman Dr Rita Austin declined to comment on the allegations, but confirmed Mr Malik was still at work.
Mr Malik has said he had been told by Awema's chair not to comment, but would respond "in the fullness of time".