Wales politics

Awema: Ex-Plaid AM Dai Lloyd says minister was told of concern

Dr Dai Lloyd and Carl Sargeant
Image caption Former AM Dr Dai Lloyd said he discussed Awema with Carl Sargeant about two years ago

The Welsh government was aware of concerns about the race relations charity Awema during the last assembly, according to a former Assembly Member.

Plaid Cymru's Dai Lloyd said he passed on a warning about problems at the All Wales Ethnic Minority Association to the minister responsible.

The Welsh government said it would be "inappropriate" to comment.

His claims come before AMs debate government funding to Awema and earlier warnings about it later on Wednesday.

Dr Lloyd said he discussed Awema with Labour's Carl Sargeant when the two parties were in coalition before last year's election.

Plaid said the meeting happened "about two years ago", but Dr Lloyd could not remember the exact date.

He was Plaid's social justice spokesman at the time. Mr Sargeant was appointed Social Justice and Local Government Minister by First Minister Carwyn Jones in December 2009.

Dr Lloyd, a former AM for South West Wales, said he was approached by a constituent with serious concerns about how the Swansea-based charity was run.

He said Mr Sargeant told him he was aware of the problems and that it was being worked on during one of their regular meetings as part of the Labour-Plaid One Wales coalition.

The charity is being wound up in the wake of a decision to cease its public funding.

A Welsh government inquiry earlier this month found there was a "complete lack of oversight of the financial processes and controls" at Awema. Chief executive Naz Malik and finance director Saquib Zia were dismissed last week.

The findings are being considered by police.

'Shocking revelations'

Dr Lloyd said that at the time he put his faith in what he was told but he was "gravely concerned" at what had gone on.

He said he would contact the Wales Audit Office, which is holding its own investigation.

A Welsh government spokeswoman said: "It would be inappropriate to comment whilst the Wales Audit Office review is under way."

The Welsh government has been under pressure from opponents over grants to Awema, which has handled publicly-funded projects worth more than £8m.

A former Awema chairman resigned after complaining to the Welsh government about the way the charity was run in 2007.

Three years earlier, a report said Awema should receive no further funding until it demonstrated improved project and performance management.

A Lib Dem motion, to be discussed in the Senedd on Wednesday, calls on the government to set out in detail its reasons for maintaining funding despite these warnings, and for a protocol on handling similar cases.

Welsh Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams said: "The Welsh government has released feeble written statements on the issue, therefore completely avoiding the opportunity of being scrutinised in the chamber.

"In spite of intense public and media interest, the government still seems to think that it can wriggle out of being held to account."

The Welsh government's top civil servant, permanent secretary Dame Gillian Morgan, has said Awema should have been graded "high risk".

The Conservatives have raised questions about Mr Malik's links to the Labour Party. Labour has suspended Mr Malik and his daughter Tegwen, who also worked for Awema.

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