From today’s Western Mail ‘Welsh Government Ministers and former Ministers are to be interviewed as part of a top-level inquiry arising out of financial irregularities at the ethnic minorities charity Awema, we can reveal.
Earlier this year the Western Mail revealed how trustees of Awema – the All Wales Ethnic Minority Association – had called in an external investigator to look into allegations of financial impropriety.
The investigation report showed that Awema’s chief executive Naz Malik had used a cheque drawn on the organisation’s bank account and pre-signed by its treasurer to pay off a personal credit card debt of £9,340.36. When questioned, Mr Malik said he regarded the payment as an advance on his expenses.
The report also raised concerns about salary increases given to the chief executive’s daughter Tegwen, who was employed as Awema’s operations director, stating that they had not been properly authorised. Her annual salary increased from £20,469 in January 2008 to £50,052 in August 2011.
In February a joint report from the Welsh Government’s internal audit services and the Big Lottery Fund – another funder – resulted in all public funding to Awema being cut off.
It said trustees of Awema, including Mr Malik, had shown “little regard to the recognised standards in public life”.
The report concluded: “This forensic investigation has identified significant and fundamental failures in the control and governance framework within Awema.
In light of these findings we cannot provide any assurance that there are appropriate arrangements in place to safeguard and make proper use of the Welsh Government, Wefo [the Welsh European Funding Office] and the Big Lottery Funds entrusted to Awema.
“These failings permeated the whole of the organisation and suggest that the trustees, including the chief executive, had little regard to the recognised standards in public life and the full range of their statutory responsibilities under charities and companies legislation.”
Mr Malik was subsequently dismissed and Awema was wound up, with other organisations taking over its projects.
The Western Mail has seen the text of an email sent by a WAO official to Ministers and former Ministers which states: “You may be aware that the Permanent Secretary has requested the WAO should conduct a full and independent review of the history of Awema by the Welsh Government'