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Oxfam scandal: Penny Mordaunt to meet National Crime Agency

The international development secretary, Penny Mordaunt.
The international development secretary, Penny Mordaunt. Photograph: Nick Ansell/PA

The international development secretary, Penny Mordaunt, is to meet investigators from the National Crime Agency to discuss the Oxfam sexual misconduct scandal.

Speaking at a child protection summit in Stockholm, Mordaunt said she would attend an appointment with the NCA after meetings with charity leaders, regulators and experts in recent days.

“While investigations have to be completed and any potential criminals prosecuted accordingly, what is clear is that the culture that allowed this to happen needs to change and it needs to change now,” she said.

What happened in Haiti?

Oxfam has been accused of covering up an inquiry into whether its staff used sex workers in Haiti in 2011 during a relief effort following the previous year’s earthquake. It is alleged those who were paid by the aid workers may have been underage. An investigation by the Times found that Oxfam had allowed three men to resign and sacked four others for gross misconduct after an inquiry into sexual exploitation, the downloading of pornography, bullying and intimidation.

How much money could Oxfam lose?

The government has threatened to cut funds to Oxfam unless it shows “moral leadership”. In 2016-17, Oxfam’s income was £408.6m, according to its annual report, including £31.7m from the DfID. Aidan Warner of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations said: “They will be concerned not just about the money but the endorsement that the relationship with DfID represents, and they are clearly working hard to regain the confidence of the government as well as the public.” 

How much does the DfID give to NGOs?

Last year the UK government dedicated £13.3bn to international aid. About £1.2bn of UK aid is spent annually through NGOs. In 2016, the UK was one of only six countries to spend 0.7% of gross national income on aid, a target set by the UN for all developed countries. Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, has said the UK remains committed to this target, despite some Tory MPs calling for it to be dropped.

Should other NGOs be worried?

A number have now been implicated. Some of the employees involved in the Haiti case went on to work for other NGOs. Over the weekend, the Sunday Times also reported that more than 120 workers from Britain’s leading charities have been accused of sexual abuse in the past year. Save the Children, which in 2016 secured multi-year contracts worth £91m with the government, had 31 cases, 10 of which were referred to the police. The British Red Cross, which admitted a “small number of cases of harassment reported in the UK”, received £16.3m in DfID funding.

Her comments come as pressure mounts on the charity over revelations that staff used sex workers in countries including Haiti and Chad.

Marks & Spencer, which has run a “Shwopping” partnership with Oxfam since 2008, said it was monitoring how the charity dealt with the situation.

The actor Minnie Driver became the first celebrity patron of Oxfam to step down in the wake of the scandal.

Mordaunt has stopped short of stripping Oxfam of its government funding, but insists the charity provide full details of those involved in the misconduct to authorities in the UK and abroad to allow legal action to begin.

Allegations have also emerged that one of the aid officials embroiled in the scandal was forced out by another British charity seven years earlier following an investigation into the use of sex workers.

  • Why is Oxfam under fire?
  • How is Oxfam funded?
  • What would happen if Oxfam loses its government funding?

Roland van Hauwermeiren is said to have agreed to leave his job with Merlin in Liberia in 2004 following an investigation into sex parties with local women, according to the humanitarian news website Irin. Merlin, a medical emergency relief charity, has since merged with Save the Children.

Van Hauwermeiren went on to work for Oxfam in Chad and Haiti, where the charity’s staff are alleged to have used sex workers. An investigation by the Times found Van Hauwermeiren resigned from his role as the head of mission in Haiti in 2011 after admitting that prostitutes had visited his villa there. He later worked for the French charity Action Against Hunger as country director in Bangladesh.

This article titled "Oxfam scandal: Penny Mordaunt to meet National Crime Agency" was written by Jamie Grierson, for on Wednesday 14 February 2018 10.04am

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