The deputy head of Oxfam has resigned 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 event in Haiti, summoned senior managers from the charity to a meeting on Monday. The outcome was not known.
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.
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.
It is now clear that these allegations — involving the use of prostitutes and which related to behavior of both the Country Director and members of his team in Chad — were raised before he moved to Haiti, she said.
As program director at the time, I am ashamed that this happened on my watch and I take full responsibility
Oxfam has said that as a result of its internal investigation in 2011, four people were dismissed, and three others — including the Haiti country director who had previously held the same role in Chad — had resigned.
The misconduct findings related to offences including bullying, harassment, intimidation and failure to protect staff, as well as sexual misconduct, Oxfam said in a statement on Friday.
We are shocked and dismayed about further revelations about the use of sex workers by Oxfam staff in Chad in 2006. While we cannot corroborate the information from Chad at the moment, it highlights again unacceptable behavior: https://oxf.am/2nZ0OY1
In the most recent financial year, Oxfam received 32 million pounds (US$56 million) from Mordaunt's ministry, about 8^% of its overall income. However, private donations are also likely to be hit by the bad publicity over the Chad and Haiti allegations.
Founded in 1942, Oxfam is one of Britain's best-known charities, running humanitarian and aid operations across the globe. Its 650 shops selling second-hand clothes and books to raise funds are a familiar sight on high streets across Britain.