Oxfam Haiti sex claims: Charity to meet government

Oxfam
Oxfam received £32m ($44m) in UK government funding in the last financial year.

Senior Oxfam managers will meet the UK international development secretary later as the charity deals with a fallout from claims of sexual misconduct by its aid workers.

Penny Mordaunt wants to hear more from Oxfam about allegations its staff used prostitutes in Haiti in 2011.

She has said it must account for the way it handled the claims or it risks losing government funding.

Oxfam has denied any cover-up of the allegations.

Its own investigation led to four people being sacked and three others resigning, including the country director for Haiti.

Ahead of the meeting, Oxfam announced new measures for the prevention and handling of sexual abuse cases.

Oxfam has faced growing criticism of the way it handled the allegations of misconduct by its staff in Haiti, where they were working in the aftermath of the huge earthquake that devastated they country in 2010.

Ms Mordaunt told the BBC’s Andrew Marr that Oxfam had failed in its “moral leadership” over the “scandal”.

She said Oxfam did “absolutely the wrong thing” by not reporting the detail of the allegations and that no organisation could be a government partner if it did not “have the moral leadership to do the right thing”.

She said she was considering whether Oxfam should receive any more funding from the government – which gave it £32m in the last financial year.

Oxfam’s chairman of trustees, Caroline Thomson, said the charity’s board had appointed a consultant earlier this year to review its culture and working practices, which would now be extended.

“It is not sufficient to be appalled by the behaviour of our former staff – we must and will learn from it and use it as a spur to improvement,” she said.

The charity will also introduce tougher vetting of staff and mandatory safeguarding training for new recruits and work with the rest of the aid sector to make it easier to share intelligence about people who have been found guilty of sexual misconduct.

This will be in addition to measures designed to prevent sexual abuse and misconduct and improve the handling of allegations which Oxfam says it introduced in the wake of the Haiti case in 2011.

What happened when?

The allegations of misconduct by Oxfam staff in Haiti date from 2011 but came to light in a report in the Times on Friday, which said the charity’s country director for Haiti, Roland van Hauwermeiren, was alleged to have used prostitutes at a villa rented for him by Oxfam in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake.

Oxfam knew about the allegations at the time and launched an internal investigation, as a result of which four members of staff were dismissed.

Three others, including Mr van Hauwermeiren, were allowed to resign before the end of the investigation.

Mr van Hauwermeiren went on to work elsewhere in the sector, but Oxfam said it would not have provided a positive reference.

The charity says it made a report public at the time which said “serious misconduct” had taken place in Haiti and issued a press release – but did not give details of the allegations.

It told the Charity Commission it was investigating inappropriate sexual behaviour, bullying, harassment and staff intimidation but did again not reveal the exact details.

The regulator took no further action at the time, but has since said it would have acted differently had it known all the facts.

Oxfam’s chief executive, Mark Goldring, told the BBC that describing details of the behaviour at the time could have drawn “extreme attention” to it, which he said would have been in no-one’s best interest.

Source: bbc.co.uk

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