Wednesday 22 February 2012

The Welsh Labour Government and corruption - no hear, no see, no speak

The Race Relations Charity AWEMA has been in the centre of the storm for weeks now. The accusations against its Chairman Naz Malik, its director (the Chairman’s daughter) and the board range from mis-use of public funds to complete lack of proper auditory oversight. The charity received more than £8 mio in the last years and has been the conduit for the Welsh Government through which funding to voluntary organisations is being channelled (the BBC broke the story a couple of months ago, you can read a summary HERE). 
The chairman of AWEMA, Naz Malik, admitted that he used public funds to pay off his personal credit cards, and its appears as if the board was not consulted when he granted himself and his daughter phenomenal pay rises which put them into the top 4% of earners in the UK. His daughter’s salary allegedly rose from about £20k to more than £50,000 in less than 4 years. The BBC reported that the board of the charity which is charged with approving the salaries of the staff, never even had a chance to vote on this. 
You would think the extraordinary story of mis-management of tax payer’s money would end there. But it is only starting. It always takes two to tango where public funds are concerned. The two in question here are AWEMA and the Welsh Government. And that is where the story becomes bizarre. 
The irregularities at AWEMA were by no means unknown to Carwyn Jones and the Labour Government in Cardiff. On the contrary, several alarm bells had been rung. In 2004, a report was commissioned by the Welsh Government (then called the Welsh Assembly Government) which clearly stated that AWEMA should not receive any public funds until proper auditory supervision has been established. Welsh First Minister was asked about this report recently in the chamber and he replied that he would not know whether this report was actually in the public domain, implying presumably that if it was not, it shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Assembly members then found the report duly filed in the Assembly library. 
No wonder Carwyn Jones wanted to wish the report away. The fact is that the problems with AWEMA were for all ministers to see in 2004 already, that was even before AWEMA received most of the £8 mio funding. Ministers were in a position to know very well what was going on at AWEMA if they only wanted! The question is now whether the Welsh Government will once again try to brush away any suggestions that it acted improperly or whether it has the courage to ask an independent commission to investigate who knew what and when. 
Oh, and in case you wondered why Carwyn Jones so desperately wants this affair to go away, here is a clue: the chairman at the centre of the row, Naz Malik, was until a few weeks ago a member of the Labour Party and a close friend of the First Minister. You can see them together on the campaign trail in 2011 HERE. Coincidence? 

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