The British Charity Commission has taken regulatory action against Oxfam UK after finding that it failed to report child abuse claims made against its staff in the wake of the devastating earthquake in Haiti.
The commission this afternoon published the findings of its inquiry into the conduct of Oxfam workers in Haiti in 2011.
The British-based charity was at the centre of a storm of controversy in February last year after it was claimed staff had used prostitutes on the organisation’s property in Haiti.
Workers were also accused of using prostitutes in Chad in 2006.
There were also allegations sexual harassment of staff, fraud, negligence and nepotism.
We want you to know how deeply sorry we are for what happened in Haiti in 2011. Watch below to see a message from our Chair of Trustees, Caroline Thomson, responding to the Charity Commission’s report and explaining how we are working to better protect the people we serve. pic.twitter.com/tZyyA2Lcrm
— Oxfam (@oxfamgb) June 11, 2019
In its report, the UKs charity regulator said Oxfam “repeatedly fell below standards expected” and “had a culture of tolerating poor behaviour.”
It concluded that it failed to honour its promises on safeguarding, “ultimately letting everyone down.”
The report took over 7,000 pieces of evidence into account, examining the charity’s Haiti response and its record on protecting beneficiaries, volunteers and staff from harm.
It found that there was a “culture of poor behaviour” and poor accountability among staff in Haiti.
It found that the charity’s approach to disclosure was marked “by a desire to protect the charity’s reputation and donor relationships” instead of its staff and beneficiaries.
It said the charity:
- Failed to adequately follow-up whether victims of sexual misconduct in Haiti were minors
- Did not report allegations of child abuse by Oxfam GB staff in Haiti
- Failed to take the risks to alleged victims seriously enough
- Dealt with staff members implicated in sexual misconduct in Haiti inconsistently, notably by appearing to treat senior staff more leniently than junior staff
- Missed opportunities to identify and tackle early warnings before the events in Haiti in 2011
The claims were first published and resulted in more than 7,000 people cancelling their donations, forcing Oxfam to make £16m (€18m) of cuts to its aid projects worldwide.
Today our UK-affiliate @oxfamgb welcomes UK Charity Commission report on its investigation into sexual misconduct by OxfamGB members staff in Haiti in 2011.
We underline their apology & convey all of @Oxfam's commitment to change. https://t.co/Y2OMzp41ql https://t.co/TPA6QHsGJv
— Oxfam International (@Oxfam) June 11, 2019
Oxfam held its own investigation in 2011 which resulted in four people being sacked and three others resigning.
Following the Charity Commission's report, Oxfam apologised for its "failure to prevent sexual abuse by its former staff in Haiti."
Caroline Thomson, the charity's chairwoman of trustees, said: "What happened in Haiti was shameful and we are deeply sorry. It was a terrible abuse of power, and an affront to the values that Oxfam holds dear.
"The Commission's findings are very uncomfortable for Oxfam GB but we accept them.
"We now know that the 2011 investigation and reporting of what happened in Haiti was flawed; more should have been done to establish whether minors were involved."
Last year, Oxfam Ireland said that none of its staff were involved in the scandal.
It pledged to play a 'leadership role' as the international charity worked to introduce reforms to "root out any form of abuse."