Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Report taken off the shelf

It’s a much used cliche that “a week’s a long time in politics.” Well, eight years can be almost an eternity. But how the current Welsh Government must wish a report had been filed away for an eternity.  The report in question, the “All Wales Ethnic Minority Association (AWEMA): Review and Evaluation Report of Equality Policy Unit (EPU) Funded Projects.” 
Not the most sexy of titles you’ll agree, but nevertheless makes for some uncomfortable reading for the government. Why? Because of its recommendations. 
The 2004 report into AWEMA said that 
“after 4 years of operation and £325,000 of Welsh Assembly Government funding, the impact that AWEMA has had on the Welsh Governments approach to consultation with BME communities in Wales has been somewhat limited.”
Basically it was saying that the organisation was not delivering the goods, despite having shed loads of taxpayers money. 
So the report went on to say 
“that no further funding is provided to AWEMA for new projects until AWEMA is able to verify that it has taken a systemic approach to project and performance management.”
Effectively the organisation was put on hold while the government ensured that the organisation was fit for purpose. The report went on to put the ball very much into the governments court by saying that 
“As principal funders, the  Assembly must apply more stringent scrutiny and develop raised expectations of AWEMA’s ability to deliver.” 
So there you have it, no  more funding for new projects until the government had reassured itself that the organisations had proper systems in place and  that the organisations can deliver.
Now fast forward to the present. AWEMA  is embroiled in claims that there has been financial mismanagement. The government announced last month it was suspending all public funding to AWEMA because of the concerns raised about the actions of chief executive Naz Malik and others within the organisation. A report is due to be published tomorrow (Thursday) following a government audit into the organisation's spending of  £8.4m of taxpayers money.
Now, clearly, the question government have to answer, is did they act on the 2004  report. If they did, were the systems of financial and management control sufficiently robust to meet the recommendations. With hindsight they clearly weren't.
On the other hand, if they did not act on the report, that is a far more serious matter. It will have failed in its duty to provide “the stringent scrutinity” the report demanded. As AWEMA has received millions of taxpayers money since 2004.
Although the 2004 heavily criticise civil servants in their overseeing of AWEMA, ultimately the buck stops with the Minister.  If tomorrow’s report does not outline the role of Ministers in the matter, then it should.  
If there is evidence of a cavalier approach, ministerial heads should roll.


  1. Good reporting Sir, good reporting. And I can only agree with your last sentence, 'If there is evidence of a cavalier approach, ministerial heads should roll.'

    Quite so. Let's see what happens tomorrow.

  2. Not just ministerial heads, also those of the top tier of management and the Chair. The situation that has come to light would be completely unacceptable in private industry. Why should it be tolerated in a public funded body?

  3. Sionnyn
    I'm not posting your comments as I've checked and the first sentence might be defamatory. But I agree with much of the views that you express.