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Oxfam warned over abuse; Inquiry: Charity Commission says there was a 'culture of poor behaviour'.


There was a "culture of poor behaviour" among Oxfam staff sent to help victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, with serious allegations of wrongdoing, including sexual abuse of children, which were not fully disclosed, an inquiry has found.

The Charity Commission for England and Wales said some of the organisation's failings and shortcomings amounted to mismanagement, prompting the regulator to issue Oxfam GB with an official warning.

The lengthy report, published yesterday after an 18-month investigation, found the charity failed to heed warnings - including from its own staff - that its culture and response to keeping people safe was inadequate, and that subsequent commitments to improve safeguarding were not backed up by actions.

The findings said Oxfam failed to adequately investigate allegations that children as young as 12 or 13 were victims of sexual misconduct against a charity "boss", that it did not report allegations of child abuse by charity staff in Haiti, and that senior staff implicated in sexual misconduct claims were dealt with more leniently than junior figures.

Charity Commission chief executive Helen Stephenson said: "Our inquiry demonstrates that, over a period of years, Oxfam's internal culture tolerated poor behaviour, and at times lost sight of the values it stands for."

She said "significant further cultural and systemic change" is required at Oxfam - which has been under the leadership of new chief executive Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah since January - to address the failings and weaknesses.

Oxfam was plunged into crisis in February 2018 when it emerged that some of its workers engaged in "sex parties" with prostitutes after the humanitarian disaster.

The Charity Commission's report said the incidents in Haiti identified in 2011 were not "one-offs", with evidence of behavioural issues as early as June 2010.

The 142-page report, which also examines Oxfam's conduct in the years after the Haiti allegations, found Oxfam failed to make sufficient "full and frank disclosures" about allegations against the charity in 2011, but said there was no evidence of a cover-up.

The Charity Commission said it had exercised its legal powers and issued an official warning under the Charities Act on the grounds "there has been some areas of mismanagement in relation to Haiti and its safeguarding governance prior to 2018".

Caroline Thomson, Oxfam GB's chairwoman of trustees, described what happened in Haiti as "shameful" and said the charity was "deeply sorry".


DEVASTATED: A suburb of Port-au-Prince after the earthquake in January 2010. Oxfam staff were sent to help victims

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Publication:The Press and Journal (Aberdeen,Scotland)
Geographic Code:5HAIT
Date:Jun 12, 2019
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