Charity Commission examines alleged misuse of funds at equality charity

Report claims head of the All Wales Ethnic Minorities Association paid off credit card debts with charitable funds

The Charity Commission
The Charity Commission

The Charity Commission has asked for a meeting with trustees of a charity that has had all of its public funding suspended after an independent investigation alleged that its chief executive had used charitable funds to pay off credit card debts.

Paul Dunn, former chief executive of Equality South West, was commissioned by trustees of the All Wales Ethnic Minorities Association to carry out an independent investigation and report into the charity, which aims to support multi-ethnic communities in Wales and tackle discrimination. The report claimed that Naz Malik, chief executive of Awema, had paid off more than £9,000 of personal credit card debt using the charity’s money.

It also made a series of other accusations, including that Malik had increased his own salary without approval from the board, and given his daughter a job and several promotions without any internal or external competition. 

A commission spokeswoman said it had received a "serious incident report" from the charity’s trustees. "The Charity Commission has written to the trustees of the All Wales Ethnic Minority Association asking them to attend a meeting to discuss what steps they are taking to manage the current concerns regarding the charity, including the long term funding of the charity," she said.

A spokeswoman for the Welsh Government said public funding totalling about £3m from the Welsh Government and the Welsh European Funding Office was being withheld while the government conducted its own investigation into the charity.

"Consistent with the Big Lottery Fund, the Welsh Government and the Welsh European Funding Office have suspended all payments to Awema pending the outcome of the investigation," she said. "Welsh Government officials have been liaising with South Wales Police regarding the allegations. It would be inappropriate therefore to make any further comment at this time."

A BLF spokesman said: "We are aware of the allegations being made against Awema and are working closely with other funders as part of the investigation."

Nobody from Awema was available for comment, although one member of staff, who asked not to be named, said Malik was still at work.

A statement on Awema’s website from Rita Austin, the chair, said that despite its "current troubles" the charity was still open for business.

"All the negative publicity in the past few weeks has made this a very difficult time for Awema: difficult for our clients who rely on us to support them as they seek to develop and improve their lives, and difficult for our staff to work through all the disruption," she said.

"The trustees and I have been addressing the issues raised with us by the Charity Commission and our Welsh Government and Welsh European Funding sponsors, and we will continue to address them with vigour."

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