Mark Isherwood AM calls for Welsh Government statement on AVOW

I am reposting this entry from Mark Isherwood’s website here for information: Original article here.

NORTH Wales Assembly Member, Mark Isherwood, called for a Welsh Government statement on the damning Association of Voluntary Organisations in Wrexham (AVOW) judgement this week, but was told by the Business Minister Jane Hutt, “I do not believe that this is the right place to raise such an issue.”

Speaking in the Chamber during this week’s Business Statement, Mr Isherwood, who is Shadow Minister for Communities and Housing, asked for a statement

“on the implications of the report with regard to the Welsh Government’s administration of public funds, the delivery of Welsh Government programmes, and its appointment of the body as the grant-recipient body for the troubled Plas Madoc Communities First project, about which concerns were raised by the Wales Audit Office.

“The Minister for Local Government and Communities has written to me to emphasise that AVOW is currently taking counsel’s advice on whether to appeal, but we are rapidly approaching the time limit on that. The Minister says that if AVOW decides not to appeal, or if it appeals and the judgment remains intact, he will ask it to confirm what action is being taken to ensure that the Government’s issues are addressed.

“However, this matter goes much deeper and further. The concerns highlighted in the report are damning. It says that the members of the tribunal were shocked at the manner in which the respondent conducted a grievance meeting. The conclusion that it reached, without hesitation, was that the grievance processes were a sham. A grant-recipient body, as you are aware, is responsible specifically for employment and financial procedures, yet I now understand that the concerns regarding governance are longstanding and are not recent revelations. I therefore call for a wider statement and a commitment to conducting an enquiry, if an appeal does not go ahead or is not upheld.”

The Minister responded:

“I do not believe that this is the right place to raise such an issue. As the regional Member for North Wales has said, correspondence with the Minister is under way. We should leave it at that at this stage.”

* * *

My comment:

Irrespective of whether or not AVOW lodges an appeal against the Tribunal’s findings, many of the facts which prove that AVOW has serious governance issues are contained in the documents which form part of the agreed bundle for the case – in other words, they are documents which have been agreed by both parties and are undisputed. They show, for instance, that the Chief Officer withdrew the organisation’s whistleblowing policy. They show that, when he did so, he assured the claimant that she would have access to any of the Trustees if she had concerns about the Chief Officer. They show that in spite of this assurance no one dealt with the claimant’s concerns about the Chief Officer even after repeated requests by the claimant to the Trustees in meetings and letters that they should. They show that all access to the Trustees was then cut off while the claimant was still employed by AVOW. They show that although grievance meetings were conducted with Trustees, all the responses came from officers. They show exactly how the Chief Officer set up a grievance meeting with the aim of exposing the claimant to the lights she had difficulties with and also how the organisation responded to the claimant’s complaint about this… and they show much more.

If anyone in the Welsh Government would like to inspect these papers, then I’d be happy to oblige. The Tribunal has copies; AVOW has copies, I have a copy and I have a spare copy lodged for safekeeping.

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