Mon, Feb 12, 2018 - Page 5 News List

UK warns charities on staff misconduct

CHAD ALLEGATIONS:New accusations emerged on Saturday in The Observer’ that some Oxfam staff had used sex workers while living at the group’s premises in 2006


A man walks past the front of an Oxfam bookshop in Glasgow, Scotland, on Saturday.

Photo: AFP

The British government yesterday said it is warning all charities that receive UK 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.

UK International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said she was writing to the charities to insist they spell out what steps they are taking on the issue and confirm they have referred all concerns about specific cases and individuals to the relevant authorities.

“With regard to Oxfam and any other organization that has safeguarding issues, we expect them to cooperate fully with such authorities, and we will cease to fund any organization that does not,” she said in a statement.

Mordaunt added she would also demand that all donors and development organizations show leadership and take action on the matter at the global End Violence Solutions Summit in Stockholm this week.

“I am very clear: we will not work with any organization that does not live up to the high standards on safeguarding and protection that we require,” she said.

The hardening stance follows reports in the Times that young sex workers were hired by Oxfam’s senior staff in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, which devastated the nation and left up to 300,000 people dead, and that the UK-based charity tried to cover up the scandal at the time.

Oxfam on Saturday was hit with new allegations of staff involvement with prostitution, after claims that employees at a second country mission had used sex workers while living at the organization’s premises.

Former staff who worked for the charity in Chad alleged that women believed to be prostitutes were repeatedly invited to the Oxfam team house there, with one adding that a senior member of staff had been fired for his behavior in 2006.

Roland van Hauwermeiren, who has since been embroiled in a sexual misconduct scandal in Haiti, was head of Oxfam in Chad at the time.

Van Hauwermeiren resigned from Oxfam in 2011, after admitting that prostitutes had visited his villa in Haiti.

Oxfam said it could not confirm whether it had any records about a Chad staff member dismissed in 2006.

Oxfam said on Saturday: “After the investigation in 2011 we carried out a thorough review of the case, which resulted in the creation of our dedicated safeguarding team, a confidential ‘whistle-blowing’ hotline and safeguarding contact point within countries 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.”

“Our code of conduct now stipulates: ‘I will also not exchange money, offers of employment, employment, goods or services for sex or sexual favors.’ In 2011 the code only prohibited sex with beneficiaries and anyone under 18,” it said.

In the latest revelations, the Sunday Times reports more than 120 workers for Britain’s leading charities were accused of sexual abuse in the past year, “fueling fears pedophiles are targeting overseas aid organizations.”

The UK’s Charity Commission, which regulates the sector, has asked Oxfam to urgently provide fresh information on the scandal in Haiti.

Oxfam chief executive Mark Goldring on Saturday admitted Oxfam did not give full details of the scandal to the UK’s Charity Commission in 2011, but insisted it “did anything but cover it up.”

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