Oxfam to lose funding?

Charity embroiled in prostitute scandal

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What is the Oxfam prostitution scandal about?

By Diane Cooke

Oxfam is fighting for its life after it denied attempting to cover up the use of prostitutes by its workers in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake in 2011 and also in 2006.

The charity said that the government and the Charity Commission were kept informed of their internal investigation into allegations in 2006 and 2011.

However, authorities say the aid provider failed to inform them in full, including information that staff members paid prostitutes for sex and that some of those involved could have been underage, a claim that Oxfam says is not proven.

In 2006, Oxfam workers in Chad allegedly hired prostitutes for sex at homes funded by the charity.

Four years later, senior aid workers, including the then-country director Roland Hauwermeiren (pictured), paid for sex in Haiti in the wake of the devastating earthquake while the charity was delivering aid. Sex is believed to have taken place in a villa paid for by the charity.

The following year, an internal investigation was launched leading to the dismissal of four workers and three others, including van Hauwermeiren, resigned.

The charity published a statement saying that it launched an investigation into allegations of misconduct against a "small number" of its staff in Haiti. The Charity Commission was informed of an internal investigation related to inappropriate sexual behavior, bullying, harassment and the intimidation of staff.

The UK's Department for International Development (DFID) was informed by Oxfam that an investigation had been launched over "sexual misconduct" but it allegedly did not reveal that the allegations could have related to underage girls or prostitutes.

The scandal was exposed last week in an investigation published by The Times alleged that Oxfam covered up the misconduct. Quoting a confidential report, the newspaper reported that "children may have been among those sexually exploited by aid workers", and that there had been a "culture of impunity" among some staff in Haiti.

Oxfam denied a cover-up and said accusations that underage girls may have been involved were not proven.The charity reported an internal investigation into misconduct allegations that year but said it related to inappropriate sexual behaviour, bullying, harassment and the intimidation of colleagues.

Michelle Russell, the regulator’s director of investigations, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: “We've made very clear that had the details of what has come out over the last few days been told to us, we would have dealt with this very differently.

”We were categorically told there was no abuse of beneficiaries involved in the allegations. Nor were we told that there were issues or possible issues around possible crimes, including those involving minors.

“What we did know - and it was made public at the time - is that it resulted in the sacking of several members of staff and resignations. We were assured that Oxfam had investigated it fully.”

Asked if the problem of exploitation could be more widespread in the charity sector, Ms Russell said: “The charity sector is not immune from these sorts of allegations and incidents happening. We have about 1,000 incidents a year reported to us by charities involving safeguarding issues.

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