Friday, 10 February 2012

Sleaze that can no longer be covered up

Let us not mince words. The evidence points to a corrupt relationship between the Welsh Government, the Labour Party and the All Wales Ethnic Minority Association (AWEMA). It is shoddy politics for ministers in Cardiff to accuse those who have sought over the years to expose misuse of funds at AWEMA of "racism" or "mischief-making".

Peter Black has posted his reaction to the release of the latest report on AWEMA - made public, it should be emphasised, just as the Welsh Assembly went into recess and there will be no Welsh Questions at Westminster for another month - and the Finance Minister's comments on it. One would expect Liberal Democrats to be scathing, but the respected political commentator Daran Hill has also confessed on Facebook to "getting a bit angry about the situation at AWEMA". His analysis is on WalesHome. He was particularly angry that yet again no minister appeared on "Dragon's Eye" who have been running the story for the last three weeks and that "one of the two [Black and Ethnic Minority] voluntary sector representatives who did appear made me spill my coffee when he suggested a 'line should be drawn' under the whole AWEMA business. That is exactly what should not happen."

He goes on: "this is perhaps the biggest scandal around the use of public money since devolution began. And those of us who campaigned hard for greater democratic scrutiny and accountability perhaps feel particularly disappointed that this scandal has happened." "The case has now been referred to South Wales Police, the Charity Commission and to the Auditor General for Wales, along with copies of the Welsh Government/Big Lottery Fund report, and that’s exactly what should happen."

The pattern of poor governance at AWEMA seems to have been set during the last time when Labour ruled alone in Cardiff, between 2003 and 2007. During that period, an adverse report was presented to the government and buried. However, in May 2007, the coalition "One Wales" government was formed. Two months later further events occurred which should have alerted Labour's junior partners, Plaid Cymru, that all was not well in an organisation receiving government funding. It is not surprising that Plaid have been rather more muted in their public criticism than Kirsty Williams and Andrew RT Davies have been.

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