Senior Oxfam managers will meet the international development secretary, Penny Mordaunt, later today as the charity reels from claims of sexual misconduct by its aid workers and allegations that staff used prostitutes in Haiti in 2011.
The meeting comes as the Charity Commission called on the charity to be ‘frank’ about what it did or did not tell the regulator at the time, with Oxfam denying any cover-up of the allegations.
And it comes as the charity Christian Aid was dragged into the row, with other charities potentially set to be caught up in the scandal.
A total of more than 120 workers from a range of Britain’s leading charities have reportedly been accused of sexual abuse in the past year alone, with new figures collated by the charities revealing that Oxfam recorded 87 allegations of sexual misconduct between April 2016 and March 2017, of which 53 were referred to the police. Meanwhile, Save the Children had 31 cases, ten of which were referred to the police, and Christian Aid had two.
Mordaunt has said that Oxfam must account for the way it handled the claims or it risks losing government funding after it emerged that the charity’s own investigation led to four people being sacked and three others resigning, including the country director for Haiti.
The scandal threatened to engulf Christian charities as Christian Aid revealed that it has investigated two incidents of sexual misconduct, both of which occurred overseas, over the past 12 months.
The Christian relief agency announced yesterday that one investigation led to the dismissal of a staff member, while the other case resulted in disciplinary action (not dismissal).
The charity added that one of the instances was ‘a case of failings in adequate safeguarding’, which was reported to the Charity Commission.
Christian Aid said the claims against Oxfam staff are ‘deplorable’. The charity said: ‘We are saddened by the accounts of deplorable behaviour from a group of individuals who have abused their power, exploited their position, and sought to subvert systems designed to protect vulnerable people in Haiti.
‘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.’
Oxfam has said that it publicly announced an investigation into the allegations when they first emerged and kept the Charity Commission informed.
But the charity regulator said that Oxfam’s report stated that there had been no allegations of abuse of beneficiaries, and made no mention of potential sexual crimes involving minors.
The Charity Commission said in a statement: ‘Our approach to this matter would have been different had the full details that have been reported been disclosed to us at the time.’
Four members of staff were dismissed and three, including the country director, resigned before the end of the 2011 investigation, Oxfam said.
On reports that staff who left Oxfam in Haiti later joined other aid agencies, Christian Aid said: ‘We are committed to living out our values of respect and dignity for all, and we will investigate any claims about any individuals involved in the Haiti incident to ascertain the facts, should they relate to Christian Aid and should we receive further information.’
Christian Aid added that its safeguarding policies are being reviewed by The Churches Child Protection Advisory Service and that the charity will be training managers in the area.
It would soon deliver a ‘safeguarding training course for faith organisations, especially churches, so they can understand, recognise and respond to safeguarding issues, and develop a safer culture’, the charity said.
Meanwhile, the British Red Cross also admitted a ‘small number of cases of harassment reported in the UK’.