Published: Mon, February 12, 2018
World | By Melba Underwood

Oxfam scandal has put charity's relationship with Government at risk - minister

Oxfam scandal has put charity's relationship with Government at risk - minister

THE British government today said it is warning all charities that receive United Kingdom aid to step up efforts to tackle sexual misconduct among staff or face having their funding cut, amid further fallout from a prostitution scandal involving Oxfam workers in Haiti in 2011.

Last Friday Oxfam, one of Britain's biggest charities, condemned the behaviour of some former staff in Haiti after a newspaper report said aid workers had paid for sex while on a mission to help those affected by the 2010 natural disaster.

Oxfam said it now had a dedicated safeguarding team, a confidential whistleblowing hotline and safeguarding contact point within countries, and a code of conduct that stipulated: "I will also not exchange money, offers of employment, employment, goods or services for sex or sexual favours".

Oxfam said it publicly announced an investigation into the allegations when they surfaced and kept the Charity Commission informed. "If the moral leadership at the top of the organisation isn't there, we can not have you as a partner", she said.

The scale of abuse in the charity sector was revealed last week when it emerged that shamed Oxfam Haiti director Roland van Hauwermeiren, 68, left the charity with six other men after getting caught using prostitutes, downloading "pornographic and illegal material".

"With hindsight, I would much prefer that we had talked about (the) sexual misconduct", Goldring told BBC radio.

Oxfam chief executive Mark Goldring apologised on Saturday, saying he was deeply ashamed of Oxfam's behaviour.

One senior member of staff in Chad was reportedly fired for his behaviour in 2006.

"Through their unacceptable actions, they have undermined the vital, effective and life-changing work carried out by Oxfam, as well as by other aid and humanitarian organisations worldwide".

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Ms Mordaunt told BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show that the failure to pass on information to relevant authorities shows an "absolute absence of leadership".

He added: 'Everybody - the 25,000 staff and volunteers - are compromised by this, the hundreds of thousands of people who support Oxfam every month are compromised by this, and to everybody I apologise.

The charity Oxfam is on the brink of losing all of its government funding.

"Our approach to this matter would have been different had the full details that have been reported been disclosed to us at the time", the regulator said in a statement.

Save The Children said all 31 abuse allegations took place in foreign countries and that 16 people had been dismissed as a result.

Ms Mordaunt replied: 'Well, quite'.

However, the minister said Oxfam did "absolutely the wrong thing" by not reporting the detail of the incidents to the government.

The Charity Commission, which regulates the sector and will meet this week with Mordaunt, has asked Oxfam to urgently provide fresh information on the scandal in Haiti.

The government's hardening stance follows reports in The Times newspaper that young sex workers were hired by Oxfam's senior staff in Haiti after the 2010 natural disaster which devastated the island and left up to 300,000 people dead.

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