Oxfam scandal ‘tip of iceberg’ as bosses quizzed

Oxfam bosses will face ministers on Monday amid claims the charity’s prostitution scandal is “only the tip of the iceberg”.

Amid continuing criticism of the organisation’s response to sex allegations, Oxfam has been warned it could lose its hundreds of millions of pounds in Government aid funding.

Mark Goldring, the charity’s chief executive, will be among Oxfam officials to meet with International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt.

The Charity Commission will also speak to Oxfam on Monday, with the watchdog having accused the charity of having not divulged “full details” of allegations in a 2011 report.

Last week, The Times reported senior aid workers used prostitutes in Haiti amid an international relief effort following the Caribbean nation’s devastating 2010 earthquake.

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.

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

Penny Mordaunt

Image: International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt has warned Oxfam could lose aid funds

The scandal has sparked wider concerns about the aid sector, with former international development secretary Priti Patel having claimed there is a “culture of denial” in the aid sector about exploitation and sexual abuse over decades.

The Tory MP, who resigned from Government last year, claimed that when she raised the issue of sexual abuse within her department it was “dismissed”.

Warning the Oxfam scandal is “only the tip of the iceberg”, Ms Patel wrote in the Daily Telegraph on Monday: “When Secretary of State for International Development, it was my mission to ensure that every taxpayer pound was spent to serve those in need, and met UK development objectives.

“That meant accountability not just on aid effectiveness, but also the sexual abuse, not just of adults, but also the rape of children.

“I would like to say that I was supported and presented with facts from the department laying out the long history that UK governments, Labour and Conservative, had in tackling this global problem. Sadly, I can’t.”

Former International Development Secretary Priti Patel MP

Video: The former international development secretary says individuals should be prosecuted

Senior Tory MP Sir Bill Cash used a letter in The Times on Monday to call on the Government to investigate whether Oxfam breached its legal obligation to reduce gender inequality in its aid work.

The prominent backbencher highlighted the provisions of the 2014 International Development (Gender Equality) Act, which strives to ensure Britain’s £13bn per year aid budget is “likely to contribute to reducing poverty in a way which is likely to contribute to reducing inequality between persons of different gender”.

In response to the revelations, Oxfam has denied it tried to cover up the use of prostitutes by staff in Haiti.

But it announced a package of measures on Sunday in a bid to improve safeguarding at the charity, including the setting up of a new, independent, external whistleblowing helpline.

Caroline Thomson, Oxfam’s chair of trustees in the UK, said: “As the new Chair of Oxfam I share the anger and shame that behaviour like that highlighted in Haiti in 2011 happened in our organisation.

“It is clear that such behaviour is completely outside our values and should never be tolerated.

Oxfam CEO Mark Goldring

Video: Oxfam CEO ‘ashamed’ by Haiti scandal

“Oxfam prides itself of being a transparent organisation that works to make life better for poor and vulnerable people, an organisation that puts women at the heart of everything we do.

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“In the words of our Chief Executive Mark Goldring, we are ashamed of what happened.

“We apologise unreservedly. We have made big improvements since 2011 and today I commit that we will improve further.”