Scottish Daily Mail

Oxfam sex scandal is ‘tip of the iceberg’

- By Daniel Martin Policy Editor

A FORMER aid minister has claimed the Oxfam sex scandal is ‘the tip of the iceberg’.

Priti Patel said there had been cases of abuse across the charity sector for 20 years amid a ‘culture of denial’.

She also accused officials in the Department for Internatio­nal Developmen­t of complicity in a ‘cover-up’ of sex claims involving aid agencies.

It came as Oxfam was last night shamed into a grovelling apology.

Its chief executive admitted there had been a failure of ‘moral leadership’ following allegation­s of sexual misconduct by aid workers.

Miss Patel’s successor Penny

Mordaunt warned the scandal had put the charity’s £32million-a-year UK aid funding at risk, and condemned the behaviour of some Oxfam staff as a ‘complete betrayal’. It came as:

Oxfam’s chief executive said he could not rule out the possibilit­y that other scandals would emerge;

Ministers said Oxfam must co-operate with investigat­ors or risk losing its government funding;

The charity was forced to announce a shake-up of its recruitmen­t, to ensure bosses are tested on tackling abuse;

Miss Mordaunt said she will use an internatio­nal summit this week to demand donors and charities redouble efforts to challenge sexual harassment;

Marks & Spencer, which works with Oxfam on a project to donate old clothes, suggested it could review their relationsh­ip. A source at the retailer said: ‘We will be keeping a close eye on the situation.’

Oxfam is facing mounting criticism over its handling of the sex allegation­s, but has denied it tried to cover up the use of prostitute­s by its aid workers in Haiti in 2011.

Four members of staff were dismissed and three, including the charity’s country director Roland van Hauwermeir­en, resigned before the end of the 2011 investigat­ion.

The charity said claims that underage girls may have been involved were not proven.

It also emerged over the weekend that 87 Oxfam workers had been accused of sexual abuse in the past year alone. Other charities have also been caught up in the scandal. Save the Children reported 31 incidents in the past 12 months. Ten of the allegation­s were passed to police and civil authoritie­s. Workers for the British Red Cross and Chris-

‘Has been happening for decades’

tian Aid were also reported. All four charities receive millions of pounds from Dfid.

Oxfam said it was ‘shamed’ by what had happened in Haiti. Caroline Thomson, the charity’s chairman of UK trustees, said: ‘Such behaviour is completely outside our values and should never be tolerated.’

Chief executive Mark Goldring added: ‘I think there’s no question that the people running the Haiti programme in 2011 failed in terms of moral leadership.’

Asked whether he could say for certain this ‘was it’ and there was ‘nothing else out there’, he told Channel 4 News: ‘No.’

Mr Goldring added: ‘We have been back through our records as thoroughly as we can and we will carry on doing that.

‘What we did after 2011 was strengthen our whistleblo­wing lines, our complaints section, our training – that has not been enough. We have to carry on improving.’

Last night Miss Mordaunt said she would be writing to all aid agencies which receive Dfid cash, ordering them to declare all abuse claims they are aware of and to confirm they have informed the authoritie­s.

The Internatio­nal Developmen­t Secretary told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show the failure to pass on informatio­n showed an ‘absolute absence of leadership’. Asked if she thought Oxfam had failed in its ‘moral leadership’, she replied: ‘Yes, I do.’

Miss Mordaunt said she would meet executives from the charity today. She will also meet the Charity Commission later this week. She added: ‘If [Oxfam] do not hand over all the informatio­n they have from their investigat­ion and subsequent­ly to the relevant authoritie­s, including the Charity Commission and prosecutin­g authoritie­s, I cannot work with them any more as an aid delivery partner.’

The watchdog said it had written to Oxfam ‘as a matter of urgency’ for further informatio­n. It said an Oxfam report on the investigat­ion stated there had been no allegation­s of abuse of beneficiar­ies and made no mention of any potential sex crimes involving minors. ‘Our approach to this matter would have been different had the full details…been disclosed to us at the time,’ it added.

Miss Patel said she had not been aware of specific claims within Oxfam, but had raised the issue of abuse involving aid workers with Dfid while head of the department.

‘There is a culture of denial in the aid sector about the exploitati­on and sexual abuse that has taken place historical­ly for decades,’ she told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Pienaar’s Politics.

Asked whether Whitehall was complicit in the cover-up, she said: ‘Put it this way – my former department did not raise this issue with me, I raised it with them through my own investigat­ions …

‘This [sex abuse] is well documented…people knew in Dfid, I raised this directly with my department…the UN said last year there were 120 cases involving 300 people – and that is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a culture of denial [of sexual abuse] in the aid sector.’

Miss Patel said ministers should have taken action years ago. ‘A government department should have been calling for prosecutio­ns … and taking money back from Oxfam as far back to 2011,’ she told Sky News. ‘I did my own research and had a lot of pushback within my department … the scandal is, within the industry, people know about this.’

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Miss Patel said: ‘The Oxfam prostituti­on scandal … is atrocious, but only the tip of the iceberg.’

She added: ‘When I raised this issue [of sex abuse in aid agencies] in Dfid, appallingl­y it was dismissed as only a problem with UN Peacekeepe­rs, which my subsequent investigat­ions showed to be incorrect…I found this abuse has been occurring across the aid sector for over 20 years and that many senior people in aid simply dismiss this issue with a three-letter acronym – SEA. SEA is not just Sexual Exploitati­on and Abuse. These letters were meant to convey the worst of crimes, child rape.’

She added: ‘British crime authoritie­s have been warning since 1999 that predatory paedophile­s are targeting the aid sector … [the] UN Secretary General revealed in his 2016 annual review that there were 145 cases involving 311 victims of “SEA” in the peacekeepi­ng part of the UN alone, just in one year.

‘Last year, he revealed…the problem was bigger in the civilian

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