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Written Statement - Follow up to the Investigation Report on AWEMA

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Jane Hutt, Minister for Finance and Leader of the House

On 9 February I laid in the National Assembly, a copy of the investigation report prepared by Welsh Government Internal Audit on behalf of the Welsh Government, WEFO and the Big Lottery Fund, into public funding of AWEMA. I informed Assembly Members that Welsh Government and WEFO funding for AWEMA had been terminated.  This Written Statement updates Members on developments since that point.

The Welsh Government is pursuing two main objectives in relation to AWEMA. First, we are working to safeguard as much as possible of the public funding remaining in AWEMA Accounts. Second, we are seeking to protect people participating in AWEMA’s ESF Convergence Projects.

At a meeting on 16 February, the Board of AWEMA’s Trustees decided that:

  • The Chief Executive Officer, Mr Naz Malik, and the Finance Director, Mr Saquib Zia, be summarily dismissed with immediate effect; and
  • That the Chair Dr Rita Austin be given authority to appoint an insolvency practitioner as the company’s administrator, to take over the control of AWEMA’s business and assets from the directors, in order to achieve one of the statutory purposes of administration.

In the circumstances the Welsh Government views this as the most appropriate outcome and the decisions taken will help to safeguard the public funding remaining in AWEMA’s accounts.

The Welsh Government is continuing to liaise closely with the Charity Commission who are carrying out a Statutory Inquiry on the winding up of AWEMA as an organisation. Officials are also continuing to liaise closely with South Wales Police and are providing them with information to assist in the progress of their investigation.

WEFO is continuing to work with the joint sponsors to put alternative arrangements in place to secure the on-going delivery of current and future project activity. All joint sponsors have expressed a commitment to safeguard the position of people currently receiving support through the AWEMA led projects and further detailed discussions between WEFO and the joint sponsors will take place shortly. Any new arrangements will be subject to due diligence being carried out to ensure public money is protected.

The Wales Audit Office review has commenced, and will deliver a report to the Public Accounts Committee.  The Wales Audit Office has stated that its review will consider whether the Welsh Government, including the Welsh European Funding Office, has managed its relationship with AWEMA appropriately to protect and make good use of public funds.