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News: Charity whistleblower wins "textbook" unfair dismissal claim

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22nd Aug 2012
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The finance director of the now defunct All Wales Ethnic Minority Association has won his claim for unfair dismissal, after raising concerns about financial mismanagement and bullying at the Swansea-based charity.

Saquib Zia was accused of gross misconduct and sacked last year, but has now been awarded £4,010 in compensation. But by February this year, a Welsh government audit report had already concluded that there were "significant and fundamental failures" at the Association, which has since gone into liquidation. It emerged during the tribunal that funds were used to pay for gym memberships, rugby and cricket tickets and a £110 parking fine. Employment tribunal judge Roger Harper described the case as a "textbook example of how not to dismiss somebody" and was astonished that the charity had "actively ignored their own dismissal procedures".

He also criticised former Awema chief executive, Naz Malik, and chair of trustees, Dr Rita Austin, saying that he found that their testimony "evasive".

Judge Harper likewise dismissed claims that Austin did not contact Zia because he was suffering from work-related stress, citing a letter sent to Zia to inform him of his dismissal. "One can only imagine what adverse impact that would have on somebody who was away from work with stress," he said. The Judge also criticised the charity's failure to consult a medical practitioner to see if it would be possible to speak with Zia. According to the BBC, Zia issued the following statement after the case:"I now feel vindicated by the decision of the employment tribunal that my dismissal was unfair. I am grateful to the judge for his careful and thorough consideration on my claim."

He was now keen to put the episode behind him and hoped that the remaining members of the board could "accept and learn the lessons of its own failings that have led to Awema's demise", he added.

 The Wales Audit Office is carrying out its own review of the charity.

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