Wales politics

Grant risk 'substantially' less, says top civil servant

Sir Derek Jones
Image caption Sir Derek Jones said reports on the way grants had been managed made for very uncomfortable reading

Better government grant management has "substantially reduced" risks of money being awarded inappropriately, Wales' top civil servant has told AMs.

Permanent Secretary Sir Derek Jones said lessons were learned from cases where failing organisations got millions of pounds of grants.

He said around 200 grant recipients a year were now facing spot-checks as part of a "business improvement plan".

Sir Derek was addressing the assembly's Public Accounts Committee.

Committee chairman Darren Millar had asked Sir Derek whether the public could be assured that tax payer's money was being paid "appropriately".

Mr Millar cited the case of Canolfan Cywain in Bala as a poor example of the use of grant money, after the rural heritage centre closed less than five years after it opened having received around £2m of public money.

Sir Derek acknowledged that "a good assessment" of the project at the beginning would have shown up risks and it would not have received the financial support it did - and he was confident that mistake would not repeated.

'High risk'

Plaid Cymru's Alun Ffred Jones raised the example of the now defunct All-Wales Ethnic Minority Association (Awema).

In 2012 the Wales Audit Office (WAO) criticised the government's management of funding for the former charity.

Awema received more than £7m over a decade - and an auditor's report concluded that the Welsh government had no way of highlighting that the race equality charity was "high risk".

Sir Derek said that much of the work of a centre of excellence established by the Welsh government to oversee and improve the grant awarding process "is related to lessons learned in that [Awema] case".

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