Charity watchdog to launch investigation into Oxfam scandal

Sign for the high street charity shop Oxfam in Glasgow city centre - Glasgow, Scotland.

The Charity Commission is to start an investigation after it emerged that staff hired prostitutes while delivering aid in Haiti, 2011.

Helen Evans, who worked as Oxfam’s global head of safeguarding between 2012 and 2015, said that an Oxfam aid worker coerced a woman to have sex “in exchange for aid” in Haiti.

Oxfam’s deputy chief executive Penny Lawrence has quit since the news emerged.

“Concerns were raised about the behaviour of staff in Chad as well as Haiti that we failed to adequately act upon,” said Evans in a statement.

“It is now clear that these allegations – involving the use of prostitutes and which related to the behaviour of both the country director and members of his team in Chad – were raised before he moved to Haiti.”

The charity has since announced new measures for the handling of sexual abuse cases. It plans to introduce a tougher vetting of staff and compulsory safeguard training for new members of staff.

Since the news came to light, Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise, said the news was “extremely serious violation of human dignity”.

“There is nothing more outrageous and dishonest than a sexual predator who uses his position as part of the humanitarian response to a natural disaster to exploit needy people in their moment of greatest vulnerability,” he wrote on Twitter.

“What happened with Oxfam in Haiti is an extremely serious violation of human dignity,” he added in a second tweet.

Oxfam carried out their own investigation in 2011. Following the investigation, the charity fired four people and three others resigned. The group have denied any cover-up.

Last year, Oxfam had an income of £409 million. £176 million of this was from the UK government and other public authorities. The UK government has since threatened to cut funding to the charity.

“This will have an impact on public trust and confidence in Oxfam,” said Daniel Fluskey, from the Institute of Fundraising.

“I know they’ve taken a number of steps to get in touch with all of their supporters to tell them what they’ve done and that’s going to have to continue.”