Wales politics

Awema: Welsh government 'will safeguard public money'

Naz Malik
Image caption Naz Malik has been sacked as chief executive of Awema as the charity faces closure

The Welsh government will try to protect as much public money as possible in the accounts of a scandal-hit race relations charity.

It applauded a decision to sack the chief executive and finance director of the All Wales Ethnic Minority Association (Awema).

But the Conservatives said ministers were "shirking accountability".

The Liberal Democrats want the government to set out in detail why funding was maintained to the charity.

On Friday, chief executive Naz Malik and finance director Saquib Zia were dismissed. Awema's chair has been given the authority to appoint administrators to take control of its business and assets.

In a written statement, Finance Minister Jane Hutt said it was "the most appropriate outcome and the decisions taken will help to safeguard the public funding remaining in Awema's accounts".

Civil servants were liaising with South Wales Police, she added.

A police spokesman said information had been provided "for consideration".

An inquiry by the Wales Audit Office is underway.

'Too late'

Conservative assembly leader Andrew RT Davies said: "Another statement, another example of accountability shirked by the Labour government.

"This statement should have been made in the chamber, with questions from all parties to follow.

"Steps to safeguard Awema's remaining public funds are welcome of course. It's a shame they're eight years and £8m too late."

The Lib Dems have tabled a motion to be debated in the Senedd on Wednesday, pointing out there were warnings about Awema in 2002, 2004 and 2007.

Their motion also asks for a protocol to ensure similar concerns are effectively handled in the future.

Since concerns were originally raised about financial practices and the management of projects, the organisation went on to secure funding commitments for projects worth more than £8m.

Funding to Awema was terminated earlier this month when a Welsh government report said there was a "complete lack of oversight of the financial processes and controls".

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.

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