UK official warns Oxfam to hand over all info on sex case
Sex predators are targeting aid organisations because of the chaotic environments in which they work, Britain's top development official warned Sunday as she threatened to pull public funding from Oxfam unless it came clean about a sexual misconduct scandal in Haiti.
Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt excoriated the leadership of Oxfam for its handling of allegations that some of the anti-poverty charity's staff in Haiti used prostitutes, including Haitians who might have been minors at the time.
Oxfam demonstrated a "failure of leadership" when it failed to fully inform authorities and because it didn't prevent the alleged perpetrators from going to work for other charities, she said.
Mordaunt made clear that all aid agencies must show "moral leadership" in tackling sex abuse or risk losing their taxpayer funding.
"What is so disturbing about Oxfam is that when this was reported to them, they completely failed to do the right thing," Mordaunt told the BBC on Sunday. "That's what we need to focus on, and that's what ultimately will stop predatory individuals from being able to take advantage of vulnerable people."
Oxfam announced seven measures Sunday designed to strengthen its handling of sexual abuse allegations. The package includes improving the vetting of employees, creating an external complaint line for whistle-blowers, and working with other charities to overcome the "legal difficulties" that kept them from sharing information on sexual misconduct cases.
"We will continue to address the underlying cultural issues that allowed this behaviour to happen," Caroline Thompson, the chair of Oxfam Great Britain's board of trustees, said in a statement. "We also want to satisfy ourselves that we do now have a culture of openness and transparency and that we fully learn the lessons of events in 2011."
The Times of London reported last week that seven former Oxfam staff members who worked in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake that devastated the country were the subject of misconduct allegations that included the use of prostitutes and downloading pornography. Oxfam's investigation into the charges was hampered by a "determination to keep it out of the public eye," the Times said.