Wales politics

Awema scandal: Naz Malik and Saquib Zia are dismissed

The chief executive and finance director of a race relations charity at the centre of a funding scandal have been dismissed following allegations of mismanagement.

The sackings of Naz Malik and Saquib Zia were announced by the All Wales Ethnic Minority Association (Awema).

The charity has been at the centre of allegations of financial irregularities and bullying.

Awema's funding was halted by the Welsh government after a damning report.

Finance Minister Jane Hutt said the government had taken "decisive action" by terminating public funding for Awema in the wake of the latest report.

A statement on the Awema website by its chair Dr Rita Austin said an administrator would also be appointed to take control of Awema's business and assets from the charity trustees, and close the business.

Awema's decision follows the Welsh government's internal audit services report from 9 February which terminated all grants of public funds to the charity.

Dr Austin said following the report, the Awema board had decided to "summarily dismiss with immediate effect the chief executive officer and the finance director".

She added: "Staff members are in active contact with participants and will do their best to ensure that support services to them continue through other means.

"The Awema board is resolved to provide a proper duty of care towards our staff as Awema moves towards closure, and is taking all necessary steps to do so."

"Finally, the Awema board wishes to acknowledge the gravity of the matters brought to public attention in the... internal audit services report.

"Clearly there have been serious failings in the effectiveness of governance and financial management within Awema upon which the Welsh government has acted, and upon which, in consequence, the Awema board now act, with all due speed, one week later."

'Lack of oversight'

But Dr Austin said the defects and deficiencies brought to light at Awema should not be seen as defining features of the charitable sector as a whole in Wales, or as characteristic of the devoted work of minority ethnic voluntary and community groups in Wales.

Mr Malik has indicated that he will not be conducting any interviews following his dismissal.

Speaking on BBC Radio Wales last Friday, Mr Zia, who had been suspended from the charity, said he had raised concerns about Awema with its board members.

The report into Awema had said there was a "complete lack of oversight of the financial processes and controls" by Mr Malik.

It said charity funds were used to pay for gym memberships for staff worth £2,120, £800 was spent on rugby and cricket tickets and a £110 parking fine for Mr Malik was paid.

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, had 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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