Public funding pulled from race relations body Awema

Wales' leading race relations organisation has had its funding suspended by the Welsh government because of accusations of financial corruption.

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Public funding has been pulled from a race relations organisation during an investigation into alleged financial corruption, BBC Wales can reveal.

It follows a highly critical report into the chief executive of the All Wales Ethnic Minority Association (Awema), Naz Malik.

BBC Wales' Dragon's Eye also raises questions about how much the Welsh government knew about alleged wrongdoing at Awema.

Mr Malik declined to comment publicly.

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 Big Lottery Fund has pulled its funding and the Welsh government, which says it is liaising with the police, is also suspending payments.

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.

'Transparency'

It is also alleged that his daughter, Tegwen Malik, was given a job and promoted on several occasions "without any internal or external competition".

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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”

End Quote Welsh government spokesman

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.

She told BBC Wales last week: "The Welsh government is leading an internal audit investigation and we will await their conclusions."

Panel of trustees

In a report she wrote for the Charity Commission, she says: "It was clear to me on close and considered reading of the CEO's (chief executive officer) response to allegations that he had as much admitted to actions in two respects which could be construed as gross misconduct."

It is understood a panel of trustees agreed to issue Mr Malik with both a written and oral warning as a result.

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In the fullness of time, I will respond to the allegations”

End Quote Naz Malik All Wales Ethnic Minority Association

Dr Dunn refused to comment on the content of his report as it was confidential, but told Dragon's Eye he was concerned his recommendations had not been implemented.

He said it was important the Welsh government concludes its investigations quickly so the matter can be resolved.

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."

'Strict instructions'

Dragon's Eye spoke to Mr Malik about the allegations made against him. He said it would not be appropriate to comment as the investigations were continuing.

Mr Malik said he was "under strict instructions from the chair (of Awema) not to make any public comment at this time".

He added that "in the fullness of time, I will respond to the allegations".

In a statement, South Wales Police said they were "aware of the situation which is under evaluation at this moment in time".

A report was commissioned by the then Welsh Assembly Government into Awema in 2003, but it has not been made public.

Mr Malik's daughter has nominated him to carry the Olympic Flame with Lloyds TSB in the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay.

On the website, she says: "He has a very big heart and as such listens carefully to what people are saying and then works out the best way to help them."

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