The Welsh Liberal Democrats are using our debate today to call on the Welsh Government to publish a statement setting out in detail its reasons for maintaining funding for Awema despite repeated warnings of financial malpractice.
Warnings regarding Awema’s (All Wales Ethnic Minority Association) financial conduct were raised with the Welsh Labour Government in 2002, 2004 and 2007. Despite this, the charity continued to secure funding commitments for projects worth more than £8 million.
The Welsh Liberal Democrat motion also calls for a protocol to ensure similar concerns regarding third sector grants are handled more effectively in the future.
The Welsh Labour Government need to detail why it failed to act despite repeated warnings of financial and managerial malpractice. The Government has so far remained virtually mute on the subject.
The Welsh Government has released feeble written statements on the issue, therefore completely avoiding the opportunity of being scrutinised in the Chamber. In spite of intense public and media interest, the Government still seems to think that it can wriggle out of being held to account. People want and deserve answers about why, despite repeated warnings, the Welsh Labour Government continued to throw tax payers’ money at this charity.
Not only did the Welsh Government not heed warnings regarding Awema’s project and financial management, it has come to light that the then Equalities Minister did not even bother to meet with officials to monitor Awema’s spending following the 2004 critical report.
The 2004 report stated that no new projects at Awema should have been funded until it could demonstrate improved project and performance management. We now need a full disclosure by the Welsh Government of its monitoring arrangements since the report was first published.
The Welsh Liberal Democrats have tabled this debate because we believe it is important that the Labour Government is held to account over its decision making process regarding Awema. We also believe that there are wider issues about the governance of charities within Wales. We recognise that Awema is an unusual case, nonetheless we believe the Government’s role in supporting and scrutinising the spending of grants needs to be looked at so the public can have full confidence that their money is not being misused.