Awema: South Wales Police investigate dishonesty claims

Naz Malik Naz Malik has been sacked as chief executive of Awema

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Police have confirmed they are investigating allegations of dishonesty among staff at the race relations charity Awema.

The charity has been dogged by scandal after allegations of financial mismanagement.

Chief executive Naz Malik and finance director Saquib Zia were sacked earlier this month and its public funding was withdrawn by the Welsh government.

Administrators have been called in to wind up the organisation's affairs.

It came after a report said there was a "fundamental lack of control" at Awema.

The findings of the Welsh government and Big Lottery Fund report into the spending of £8.4m in public funding were examined by police.

Det Insp Dave Runnalls of the South Wales Police Economic Crime Unit said: "I can confirm that South Wales Police is investigating allegations of dishonesty by Awema personnel."

SUMMARY OF ALLEGATIONS

  • Naz 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 treatment of some junior staff was so poor that it contravened their human rights
  • Source: Paul Dunn's report for trustees

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

It said charity funds were used to pay for gym memberships for staff worth £2,120, rugby and cricket tickets totalling £800, and a £110 parking fine for Mr Malik.

It also said there was a "clear conflict of interest" because one of the charity's directors reporting to Mr Malik was his daughter Tegwen. There were "considerable increases" in her salary from £20,469 to £50,052.

An earlier report, commissioned by the charity's trustees, said Mr Malik used funds inappropriately and paid off credit card debts worth £9,340.

It also alleged that his salary was increased to £65,719 without approval from the board.

The Welsh government has said it will try to protect as much public money as possible in the accounts of Awema.

'Restore faith'

However, opposition parties have demanded answers after it emerged there were warnings about Awema in 2002, 2004 and 2007 but funding was still given to it.

Plaid Cymru Assembly Member for South Wales West, Bethan Jenkins, said: "I welcome the news that South Wales Police are investigating allegations of dishonesty at Awema.

"There are still a lot of questions that remain unanswered which I hope this investigation will address.

"The Awema scandal could have far-reaching implications for the whole of Welsh civic society.

"It is important that it is fully investigated and that, where necessary, appropriate people are brought to justice in order to restore faith in our institutions."

A statement on the Awema website on 17 February by its chair Dr Rita Austin said that an administrator would be appointed to take control of Awema's business and assets from the charity trustees, and close the business.

Dr Austin said at that time that following the Welsh government's report, the Awema board had decided to "summarily dismiss with immediate effect the chief executive officer and the finance director".

"The Awema board is resolved to provide a proper duty of care towards our staff as Awema moves towards closure, and is taking all necessary steps to do so," she added.

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