There were ‘weaknesses’ in the way the Welsh Government managed the funding of a now-defunct controversial Welsh charity, according to the public spending watchdog.
The All Wales Ethnic Minority Association (AWEMA) – which had the aim of promoting equality and diversity in Wales - closed earlier this year amid accusations of financial mismanagement.
The Wales Audit Office has today published its long-awaited report into the AWEMA affair. It has concluded that the Welsh Government’s management and co-ordination of public funding to the charity was often ‘weak’ and responses to concerns about the charity were too often narrowly focused.
Between 2000 and 2011 AWEMA received over £7 million in public money - the vast majority of that coming from the Welsh Government.
There have been long-standing concerns over the way AWEMA has been run. Its former chief executive Naz Malik has been accused of using AWEMA to pay off his credit card, to pay for gym memberships and also parking fines. He has yet to make public comment.
The report found Mr Malik raised the allegations made against him with a senior official in the Welsh European Funding office (part of the Welsh Government) in November 2011 but this was not acted upon. Action was only taken when those same allegations were repeated to adifferent government department weeks later in December 2011.
The Assistant Auditor General Anthony Barrett says had the Government initially acted upon them, payments to AWEMA worth £529,000 “may not have been authorised.”
The report found no evidence of inappropriate political influence in funding decisions and it says the Welsh Government responded robustly to concerns that emerged about AWEMA in December 2011.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said:
– Welsh Government spokesperson
We welcome this report, which was requested by the Welsh Government, and have co-operated fully with the Wales Audit Office in its preparation.The report has confirmed there is no evidence that Ministers exerted any inappropriate political influence over funding decisions and always acted in accordance with advice from officials.
It also highlights the swift and robust action the Welsh Government took to suspend funding to AWEMA while protecting those who were delivering programmes through AWEMA. The Welsh Government is already acting on the lessons contained in the Report which will build on the work underway to improve the future management of our grants programme.
It is estimated the Welsh Government is owed £545,966 by AWEMA. The report says most of that money will not be recovered.