Oxfam pressed over allegations senior aid staff used prostitutes in Haiti

10 February, 2018, 11:03 | Author: Lucy Floyd
  • The United Kingdom's Department for International Development sharply criticized the charity and demanded that Oxfam's senior officials meet with it to explain their actions relating to the sexual misconduct scandal

Responding to the report, Oxfam denied it was behind a "cover-up" to protect its reputation.

Roland van Hauwermeiren, 68, who Oxfam has confirmed was forced to resign as Haiti country director in 2011 after allegedly admitting hiring prostitutes, went on to become head of mission for Action Against Hunger in Bangladesh in 2014, according to The Times.

Paying for prostitutes is illegal in Haiti and goes against Oxfam's code of conduct for worldwide staff. Oxfam has admitted that no criminal reports were made to the Haitian authorities because "it was extremely unlikely that any action would be taken".

An investigation by the Times newspaper found the charity had sacked four people for gross misconduct and allowed three to resign after an inquiry looking into behaviour in Haiti, where Oxfam helped the global relief effort after the quake in 2010.

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"We acknowledge that hundreds of Oxfam staff have done no wrong and work tirelessly for the people they serve, but the handling by the senior team about this investigation and their openness with us and the charity commission showed a lack of judgement".

The majority of its 230 staff members working in Haiti at the time are not accused of doing anything improper.

Our primary aim was always to root out and take action against those involved and we publicly announced, including to media, both the investigation and the action we took as a result. Two others resigned and four were dismissed as part of the investigation. The organization has admitted that re were allegations that minor girls had been involved, but maintained that y were "unproven".

But in its statement, DFID said the charity had fallen short.

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The organization said on Friday that its 2011 investigation had "resulted in the creation of our dedicated Safeguarding Team and a confidential "whistle-blowing" hotline as part of a package of measures to ensure that we do all we can to protect our staff, prevent sexual abuse and misconduct happening in the first place and improve how we handle any allegations". Allegations such as those involving Oxfam staff risk undermining public trust. The incident was reported to the appropriate bodies, including the Charities [sic] Commission.

"We are now engaged with the charity regarding its approach to safeguarding following more recent allegations".

Priti Patel said that she was shocked by the revelations made by The Times and "those responsible for these crimes should be prosecuted and United Kingdom aid should be withdrawn from this scandalous organisation". When asked the same question in a BBC interview, Barbara Stocking, who was the group's chief executive in 2011, said, "I absolutely disagree that we were not transparent".

"We will expect the charity to provide us with assurance that it has learnt lessons from past incidents and is taking all necessary steps to safeguard all who come into contact with it", the Charity Commission spokeswoman said.

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