AWEMA: Report number nineteen

  • 18 October 2012
  • From the section Wales
  • comments

I'll keep this short - and it's not at all sweet.

The Wales Audit Office report, published this morning, into the way taxpayers money was given by the Welsh Government to the All Wales Ethnic Minority Association is damning. Turn the pages and you'll find facts, figures, quotes from officials and ministers that point to opportunity after opportunity to stamp out the mismanagement at AWEMA, all missed.

Why?

Because alarm bells ringing in one department weren't even heard in other departments.

Because when red lights were flashing - as they did regularly over the years - AWEMA promised things would improve. They didn't but no-one was looking anyway, not properly.

Because while the report concludes - and this is the one bit of good news for the government - that there is no evidence that Labour ministers interfered to protect a body run by a well-known Labour party supporter. It cites the author of one investigation who said he was aware of "the backdrop" of support for AWEMA within the government, that ministers "wanted AWEMA to work". Others point to a worry they'd be accused of discrimination if they spoke out and did more to question what AWEMA was doing with over the years with many millions of pounds.

Another point worth making: that until the Wales Audit Office put their report together, no-one actually knew how much public money had been given to AWEMA. There were many sources, many streams of funding and an overview seems to have been absent when it came to answering the question: just how much?

And a final point: the men from the Audit Office were anything but careful spokespeople-in-suits this morning. They were keen to volunteer the fact that this is just the latest in a long line of reports criticising the way the Welsh Government manages grant funding. It is, in fact, number nineteen, they said in a voice that screamed: we've had a gutsful.

It seems to me that the Wales Audit Office has indeed had enough. It is determined that this report is the one that will act as a wake-up call, that if there has to be a number twenty, it's because lessons are being learned but that changing the culture of management failure is taking time.

There are no ministers out and about responding to such strong and damning critcism. The Welsh Government instead has chosen to issue a statement:

"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."