Welsh Conservatives called on the Welsh Government to launch an independent inquiry into the failings of Natural Resources Wales (NRW).
Welsh Conservatives asked Assembly Members to debate the problems that have plagued the Welsh Government quango since its formation in 2013, and vote on whether an independent investigation should take place to look into an alternative future for the body.
The debate followed several years of catalogued errors by Natural Resources Wales, culminating in the poor handling of large Welsh timber contracts that auditors recently described them as creating ‘a heightened exposure to the risk of fraud’.
NRW has also been heavily criticised by both the Wales Audit Office and the Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee after the ‘qualification’ of the organisation’s accounts for three years running.
These scandals come on the back of a history of poor management at the quango, which has led to low staff morale and the departure of important commercial expertise from the organisation.
Problems have been compounded by the lack of core funding provided by the Welsh Government. While the government has consistently increased NRW’s responsibilities, it has done so without providing the necessary funding to manage the day-to-day running of the organisation, resulting in a 35% real terms cut in funding to non-flood budgets between 2013 and 2017.
Shadow Minister for the Environment and Rural Affairs, Andrew RT Davies AM, said:
“After years of systematic failings, it is clearer now than ever that Natural Resources Wales is no longer fit for purpose and many people in key industries have lost faith in the quango.
“At the very least, the Welsh Labour Government must now launch an independent review of the organisation and consider alternatives such as whether NRW should be split into two bodies; one to oversee environmental regulations and the other to oversee commercial duties.
“NRW has been plagued by incompetence since its inception and it's now time the Welsh Labour Government took responsibility for this disastrous merger.”