Eighty cases of alleged sex abuse uncovered after Oxfam

The Times

Overseas development charities have reported 80 new incidents of sexual misconduct or abuse involving their staff.

The Charity Commission said that since The Times reported that seven Oxfam staff had paid for prostitutes or bullied colleagues in Haiti after its earthquake in 2011 a further 26 aid organisations had come forward to report cases of sexual misbehaviour or malpractice.

Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, said that all organisations in receipt of British development aid would have to meet new and tougher standards to protect staff and beneficiaries of aid from abuse

Of these, seven charities reported serious incidents that arose during the last financial year and 19 notified the regulator of historic cases of abuse that they had not reported at the time. It total 80 new incidents were reported.

These new cases spanned the “full spectrum” of seriousness, the commission said. It will examine details of each incident and pass details to the National Crime Agency for potential prosecutions if necessary.

The cases were revealed by Baroness Stowell of Beeston as she used her first speech as chairwoman of the Charity Commission to address a safeguarding summit of around 50 representatives of British development charities, aid experts and regulatory bodies.

The meeting in London was called to agree plans to strengthen rules such as how aid workers are vetted and how concerns about individuals are shared, supporting whistleblowers and victims of abuse and creating a new independent body with powers to investigate reports of sexual misconduct in the field.

Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, told the meeting that her department had questions or concerns about the reporting of past incidents or current safeguarding practices of 37 British aid organisations.

She wrote to 179 development charities following The Times’s reports on how Oxfam failed to disclose the dismissal or departure of seven on its staff for sexual misconduct in Haiti seven years ago. She asked each of the charities if they had referred any such incidents to the relevant authorities and whether they had robust policies in place to handle such cases.

She told the summit: “Across the returns, we saw important examples of good practice but overall there was too little evidence in the areas of robust risk management, comprehensive reporting, responsibility being taken at the highest level for safeguarding and of beneficiaries always being put first.”

Ms Mordaunt announced that all organisations in receipt of British development aid would have to meet new and tougher standards to protect staff and beneficiaries of aid from abuse, and that organisations would not be able to bid for funds unless they met these.

She said: “My message to those who have sought to exploit this sector and the human tragedy in which it operates, is this: we will all share information we have with law enforcement. We will find you. We will bring you to justice. Your time is up.”

Lady Stowell gave warning to leaders of aid charities that they must never put their corporate interests ahead of the beneficiaries whose benefit they served, saying that it was bad enough when bankers acted in this way but when aid workers and charity bosses were self-interested it was far worse.

She said: “Quite simply the public expect charities to be selfless and not self-interested institutions. They expect charities to have good aims and to pursue those aims according to the common standards of human decency.

“It is vital for all of you to understand that however noble your cause it does not provide immunity from those basic expectations. No cause, however noble, can provide a licence to justify unacceptable means.”

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