There is continued coverage across broadcast and newspapers this morning of the allegations and investigation of sexual exploitation by Oxfam staff members in Haiti in 2011.
Stories in The Times, The Today Programme, The Telegraph, Sky News, BBC, The Guardian, Newsnight and Press Association all note that the Government is reviewing its current work with Oxfam following these allegations and that the way this appalling abuse of vulnerable people was dealt with raises serious questions that Oxfam must answer.
The behaviour of these individuals in Haiti was shocking and utterly unacceptable. DFID has zero tolerance of sexual exploitation.
Here is our statement:
“We often work with organisations in chaotic and difficult circumstances. If wrong doing, abuse, fraud, or criminal activity occur we need to know about it immediately, in full. The way this appalling abuse of vulnerable people was dealt with raises serious questions that Oxfam must answer.
“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. We have a zero tolerance policy for the type of activity that took place in this instance, and we expect our partners to as well.
“The International Development Secretary is reviewing our current work with Oxfam and has requested a meeting with the senior team at the earliest opportunity.”
We expect all our partners to have robust systems in place to prevent such unacceptable behaviour, fully investigate complaints in compliance with the Charity Commission, and support those who have been affected.
In 2011, Oxfam informed DFID that it had launched, conducted and concluded an investigation and that they had informed the Charity Commission of their investigation.
Oxfam informed us that the Country Director had resigned and reported that six other members of staff had been involved in a number of breaches of Oxfam’s code of conduct. They confirmed that although the breaches were serious in nature, none of the instances of misconduct involved beneficiaries or the misuse of any funds intended for post-earthquake reconstruction. DFID was informed disciplinary action had been taken, and that all six staff had left Oxfam.
According to our written records, Oxfam did not report to us that the allegations referred to sex with under-age girls or prostitutes. Oxfam’s report to the Charity Commission referred to ‘sexual misconduct’.
Oxfam has confirmed to DFID that it is conducting a full review of its safeguarding practices and this will be urgently acted upon.
DFID is clear that any agency, NGO or private sector partner that receives aid from the UK must have the strongest possible measures in place for training, prevention, detection and investigation in relation to sexual exploitation and abuse. They must be fully transparent about any and all accusations made against their staff, contractors and implementing partners.