'Catalogue of weaknesses' over funds for ethnic group - report
THE WELSH Govern- ment displayed an "alarming catalogue of weaknesses" in its funding to the All Wales Ethnic Minority Association, according to the chair of its own Public Accounts Committee.
A Wales Audit Office report this week concluded more than £500,000 would never be recovered from the former charity, which was based in Swansea's Kingsway, and that the management of funding its public money was "often weak".
The charity was wound up this year amid allegations of financial mismanagement, after an earlier report identified "significant and fundamental failures" in its governance.
It found its chief executive, Naz Malik, had claimed £9,000 as an advance on future expenses, to pay off his credit card, and used taxpayers money to pay a parking fine and fund tickets to rugby and cricket matches and gym membership.
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The Wales Audit Office report found there was no evidence of inappropriate political influence over funding decisions, but Darren Millar AM, who chairs Wales's Public Accounts Committee, said the latest report brought into question the effectiveness of how the Welsh Government distributed public money.
He said: "The report points to an alarming catalogue of weaknesses in the Welsh Government's overall management and co-ordination of funding and in its response to historical concerns about Awema.
"In light of our own interim report, Grants Management in Wales, which was published in August, the Public Accounts Committee will be considering how best to take forward any further inquiries into these latest findings – to ensure that lessons can be learned and these problems are prevented from reoccurring in the future."
Plaid's shadow minister for communities Rhodri Glyn Thomas said: "The important thing now must be to restore public confidence in the whole system of how various charities are funded by the Welsh taxpayer."
Welsh Government Permanent Secretary Derek Jones said they were already taking firm and decisive action to improve the management of grants to third sector organisations.
A Grants Management Project was established in September 2010. This involved the creation of a Grants Centre of Excellence to develop corporate processes and procedures, tools, guidance and other material.
Mr Jones CB said: "Grants form one of the Welsh Government's most important mechanisms for delivering Ministerial priorities and are making a real difference to the lives of people in Wales.
"The Grants Management Project was established to deliver improvements across the Welsh Government."