Deputy chief executive of Oxfam resigns

Penny Lawrence was programme director at the charity in 2011, when the alleged incidents in Haiti took place, and says she takes full responsibility

Penny Lawrence
Penny Lawrence

The deputy chief executive of Oxfam, Penny Lawrence, has resigned from the beleaguered charity after claims emerged of sexual exploitation by aid workers operating in the charity’s Haiti and Chad programmes.

Lawrence’s resignation comes in the wake of revelations that in 2011 three Oxfam employees in Haiti resigned – one the country director – and four were sacked for gross misconduct after the charity concluded an investigation into allegations of sexual exploitation.

Similar claims have since emerged about the charity’s Chad programme, and the charity has been criticised for failing to provide the full details of either case to the Charity Commission or the government.

Oxfam has since apologised "unreservedly" and announced a range of measures to strengthen its safeguarding policy, but has been threatened with having its £34m of UK government funding withdrawn.

Lawrence was programme director at Oxfam in 2011, when the alleged incidents in Haiti took place. She said she was "ashamed that this happened on my watch" and would take full responsibility.

She became deputy chief executive at Oxfam in 2016 and had been programme director since 2006.

Lawrence said that allegations about the behaviour of the country director in Chad – which according to Lawrence involved "the use of prostitutes" – were raised with the charity before he moved to Haiti as country director.

Lawrence said: "I am deeply sad to announce that I have resigned as deputy chief executive of Oxfam GB.

"Over the past 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."

Mark Goldring, chief executive of Oxfam, said: "I deeply respect Penny’s decision to accept personal responsibility. Like us, she is appalled at what happened and is determined to do what is best for Oxfam and the people we exist to help.

"I would like to place on record my sincere thanks for the years of dedicated service that Penny has given to Oxfam and the fight against poverty around the world."

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