Friday, 10 February 2012

Awema. Still questions?

So at last the Welsh Government has acted over the scandal over Wale's foremost charity for ethnic minorities with the announcement by Equalities Minister Jane Hutt that funding had been terminated with immediate effect,

The decision coincides with the publication of an internal audit report carried out into the body by the Welsh Government, in conjunction with the Big Lottery Fund.

According to the statement..

"It was recognised from the outset that allegations that individuals had committed potentially criminal activity, or potentially affecting Awema’s charitable status, were matters that should be drawn to the attention of South Wales Police and the Charity Commission.
"Liaison with them has continued throughout the Welsh Government’s investigation process."
"The investigation has identified significant and fundamental failures in the control and governance framework within Awema:
* Governance arrangements in relation to management and to the Awema Management Board of Trustees;
* Financial controls and processes;
* An absence of key policies and procedures; and
* An organisational structure that does not adequately support the operations of Awema."

The Question we should now ask is. Why has this taken so long to be resolved with the effective closure of Awema?

The scandal first emerged when it was disclosed by the Western Mail that Naz Malik, chief executive of Awema (the All Wales Ethnic Minority Association) had been given a written warning after admitting using £9,340.36 of the body’s money to clear his credit card debt.

Most people wondered why he wasn't given the option of immediately  resigning or being dismissed.

Tthe acting chairman of Awema, Mr PK Verma, resigned, together with two other trustees.

In a letter to a senior Welsh Government official, Mr Verma, who has since died, alleged that attempts by him to call a special meeting of Awema’s trustees had been thwarted. He had wanted the meeting to discuss “the remuneration of the director [Naz Malik], in particular the authorisation of salary and pension increases that had never been before the board” as well as “the management and supervision of the director”.

Explaining why he and two other trustees were resigning, Mr Verma wrote: “... we have all come to the conclusion that it may be better to resign and leave the Assembly to sort out what is a most unsatisfactory situation.”

On July 13, the Welsh Government officially responded to Mr Verma, stating: “These are essentially internal operational matters and ones for you and the board to resolve.

Naz Mlik  position obviously had nothing to do with him being a prominent Labour Supporter and Mr Malik's son Gwion Iqbal Malik stood on Labour's Mid and West Wales regional list at last May's assembly elections

This failure to take any real action promted more interst in what was happening at Awema which

Current Awema Chair Rita Austin (a former Cardiff Labour Counxillor) Rita Austin defended Awema, saying it had become a "stick to beat the Welsh Government"She claimed that..
"The glee with which the press and TV convey the partisan attacks of opposition politicians is catching Awema in its backwash, creating the unedifying spectacle of a concerted attempt by powerful institutions to characterise Awema as a corrupt organisation: a time honoured way of debasing and devaluing the contributions of black and minority ethnic people, often on the basis of scant evidence, which is well known to many of us."
She adds: "It is as though the great, the good and the powerful have already rushed to judgement and made their minds up about what should happen to Awema, long before the Welsh government internal audit, with which we have been co-operating fully, has reported.

This dispite the fact that

THE Welsh Government was advised to stop funding the charity at the centre of financial management allegations as long ago as 2004 The document, obtained by the Liberal Democrats, in which a report into theAwema) recommended that no further funding should be provided for new projects until it could prove it had overhauled its project and performance management.


There may be some racial motivations in some of those commenting on the problems at Awema but it does seem to me that sensitivity over allegations of racism prevented the action that should have ben taken over 8 years ago and a charity that should have provided a valuable service would not have brought to such an inglorious end.

We need to investigate why action on the advice in 2004 was not taken and to what extent relationships with the ruling Labour part in Wales affected this

Hopefully a new charitable organisations will be formed to carry out the sort of remit that Awema should have done but as with other charitable organisations which may also need careful auditing of their structure. Lets hope it will sever the people and not those working for it.


3 comments:

  1. and there is the rub, it is quite possible for a charity to become dominated by a strong personality and become a vehicle for their ambitions. They exist to fulfill a specific function, a benefit to society. Without a strong an proactive board of trustees then this is often the fate of an organisation.

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  2. AWEMA = Labour Sleaze.

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  3. To be fair the problem is not so much the Labour party as it dominant position in Wales. Unfortunately unless Plaid gets its act together that dominance is likely to increase as it regains control of a number of Wesh Councils in May,

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