The deputy head of Oxfam resigned on Monday over what she said was the British charity’s failure to adequately respond to past allegations of sexual misconduct by some of its staff in Haiti and Chad.
One of the best-known international NGOs, with aid programs running across the globe, Oxfam was under threat of losing its British government funding over sexual misconduct allegations first reported by the Times newspaper last week.
The scandal was fast escalating into a broader crisis for Britain’s aid sector by bolstering critics in the ruling Conservative Party who have argued that the government should reduce spending on aid in favor of domestic priorities.
Aid minister Penny Mordaunt, who threatened on Sunday to withdraw government funding from Oxfam unless it gave the full facts about events in Haiti, summoned senior managers from the charity to a meeting on Monday.
“Oxfam made a full and unqualified apology – to me, and to the people of Britain and Haiti – for the appalling behavior of some of their staff in Haiti in 2011, and for the wider failings of their organization’s response to it,” Mordaunt said after meeting Oxfam’s chief executive, Mark Goldring.
“I told Oxfam they must now demonstrate the moral leadership necessary to address this scandal, rebuild the trust of the British public, their staff and the people they aim to help, and deliver progress on these assurances,” she added in a statement.
The statement did not address the question of funding. There was no immediate comment from Oxfam.
The Charity Commission said it had launched a statutory inquiry. The regulator said it had concerns Oxfam “may not have fully and frankly disclosed material details about the allegations at the time in 2011, its handling of the incidents since, and the impact that these have both had on public trust and confidence”.
The Times newspaper reported on Friday that some staff who were in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake there had paid for sex with prostitutes. Oxfam has neither confirmed nor denied that specific allegation but has said an internal investigation in 2011 had confirmed sexual misconduct had occurred.
Reuters could not independently verify the allegation.
Announcing her resignation on Monday, Deputy Chief Executive Penny Lawrence said Oxfam had become aware over the past few days that concerns were raised about the behavior of staff in Chad as well as Haiti that the organization failed to adequately act upon.
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