Oxfam resignation over prostitution scandal

Oxfam’s deputy chief executive has resigned over the prostitution scandal engulfing the charity, saying she is “ashamed” of what happened.

Penny Lawrence said she took “full responsibility” for the behaviour of the charity’s staff in Chad and Haiti “that we failed to adequately act upon”, adding she was sorry for the “harm and distress” it had caused supporters.

The announcement comes after talks between Oxfam bosses and ministers on Monday amid continuing criticism of the charity’s response to the sex allegations.

The Times newspaper reported last week that senior aid workers used prostitutes in Haiti during the international relief effort following the devastating earthquake that hit the Caribbean nation in 2010.

:: Oxfam sex scandal ‘tip of iceberg’ as bosses hauled in to see ministers

Penny Lawrence - Oxfam

Image: Ms Lawrence said she was sorry for the ‘harm and distress’ caused. Pic: Oxfam

An internal investigation by the charity into sexual exploitation, the downloading of pornography, bullying and intimidation is claimed to have found children may have been exploited by employees.

The organisation has since faced further allegations prostitutes were also used by staff in Chad in 2006.

And the claims continued on Monday, with allegations the charity was aware of concerns about the conduct of two of men at the centre of the Haiti allegations when they previously worked in Chad.

Oxfam has denied trying to cover up the use of prostitutes by staff in Haiti and has announced a package of measures in a bid to improve safeguarding at the charity.

Aid agencies stepped in to help the thousands left homeless after the Haiti earthquake

Image: Aid agencies stepped in to help the thousands left homeless after the Haiti earthquake

In a statement announcing her decision, Ms Lawrence said: “Over the last few days we have become aware that concerns were raised about the behaviour of staff in Chad as well as Haiti that we failed to adequately act upon.

“It is now clear that these allegations – involving the use of prostitutes and which related to behaviour of both the Country Director and members of his team in Chad – were raised before he moved to Haiti.

“As programme director at the time, I am ashamed that this happened on my watch and I take full responsibility.

“I am desperately sorry for the harm and distress that this has caused to Oxfam’s supporters, the wider development sector and most of all the vulnerable people who trusted us.

preview image

Video: Oxfam chief: Need to rebuild public trust

Ms Mordaunt said the charity had lied and failed in its “moral leadership” by not fully disclosing details of its investigation to the relevant authorities.

The Charity Commission has said it was not told the full story when Oxfam first looked into the allegations in 2011.

Four members of staff were dismissed and three, including the country director Roland van Hauwermeiren, resigned before the end of the probe.

The scandal has sparked wider concerns about the aid sector, with Ms Mordaunt’s predecessor telling Sky News senior officials “pushed back” against an inquiry into alleged abuse.

Former International Development Secretary Priti Patel MP

Video: Ex-International Development Secretary says individuals should be prosecuted

Priti Patel said “a lot of people knew about this”, and added in a Daily Telegraph article that the Oxfam claims are “only the tip of the iceberg”.

Ms Mordaunt has defended her department, saying she first heard about the claims when they were made in The Times.

Following Ms Patel’s claims, Downing Street refused to say if the Prime Minister retained full confidence in senior officials at the Department of International Development (DfID).

More from UK

When asked, a Number 10 spokesman said: “The Prime Minister, of course, has full confidence in the Secretary of State to lead this department, a department which has already taken action on this issue.”

More follows…

Share this content!