Oxfam investigation warned against 'problem staff' yet they continued to work

Oxfam investigation warned against 'problem staff' yet they continued to work

Oxfam has been criticised over its handling of alleged abuse

Monday, February 19, 2018

Oxfam's 2011 investigation into the Haiti sex scandal concluded charities should be warned about "problem staff," only for several people accused of abuse to go on to further posts in the aid sector.

The charity made the recommendations at the end of an internal report which noted that four people had been dismissed and three had resigned over the Haiti scandal, specifically over allegations ranging from the use of prostitutes on charity property to sexual exploitation of employees.

Suspicions that under-age sex workers had been exploited "cannot be ruled out," according to the report, which has been officially released after a leaked copy was published by The Times earlier this month. Oxfam has been accused of covering up the report, but denies the accusation.

The scandal erupted after relief staff were posted to Haiti in the aftermath of an earthquake which killed thousands of people in 2010. Oxfam's report alleges that the director of operations in the country, Roland Van Hauwermeiren, admitted using sex workers in his charity-funded accommodation and was granted a "phased and dignified exit." Last week he denied ever using prostitutes in Haiti.

A section entitled "lessons learned action plan" sets out the need for tighter safeguarding across the industry to stop disgraced aid workers moving to new posts.

However several men at the centre of the allegations subsequently took up roles in aid organisations, including at Oxfam. Van Hauwermeiren became a senior figure at Action Against Hunger in Bangladesh, with the charity since claiming Oxfam made no mention of his alleged conduct in 2011.

In a statement published on Sunday (February 18) the charity said: "Oxfam GB will discuss these cases with the Charity Commission as part of the Charity Commission inquiry to work out what else it can do in relation to the victims.

"The Independent Commission which we announced on Friday will also seek to hear from the women affected."

However Oxfam repeatedly refused to clarify whether it had contacted any of the women allegedly preyed upon, either during or since the investigation.

It has instead vowed to meet the Haitian government more than six years on to apologise for "mistakes" and discuss how to make amends, including to the women affected.

Oxfam said: "We are making this exceptional publication because we want to be as transparent as possible about the decisions we made during this particular investigation and in recognition of the breach of trust that has been caused.

"We hope this also contributes to rebuilding trust with those who support our work."