IPPF defends itself in wake of sexual and financial misconduct allegations

A Times article has criticised ministers for awarding the charity £132m despite continuing investigations into the allegations

The International Planned Parenthood Federation has defended the actions it took after accusations of sexual misconduct and fraud were made against the charity’s Africa regional director.

An article in The Times newspaper today criticised the Department for International Development for awarding the IPPF £132m in funding despite the allegations.

The paper accused Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, of failing to "make good" on her pledge to have zero tolerance for sexual misconduct in aid organisations, made in the wake of safeguarding scandal last year, and said the IPPF had "slipped through the net of self-regulation".

The Charity Commission has opened a regulatory compliance case into the IPPF after the charity reported the issue as a serious incident.

In a statement, the IPPF said: "A number of allegations have been made against the Africa regional director by staff members in the regional office through our internal safeguarding mechanisms."

In response, it said, the IPPF had commissioned an independent investigation by one of east Africa’s largest corporate law firms, Anjarwalla and Khanna.

"The thorough investigation conducted by A&K concluded that there were insufficient grounds to take disciplinary action against the regional director on the evidence available on the allegations," the statement said.

But, it added, the investigation had uncovered new information about "a lack of management controls and oversight" in relation to an incident of fraud in the regional office, which the charity was already aware of and had previously investigated.

"This new information led to the commencement of a disciplinary process against the regional director."

At the end of November, the decision was made to terminate the regional director’s contract, the statement said, but an appeal has been lodged and the process is still ongoing.

The regional director will have no active duties during the appeal process, the statement said.

"IPPF has been in regular contact with its donors and the regulator throughout this process," the statement said.

"Over the past year, IPPF’s safeguarding taskforce has undertaken considerable work to strengthen safeguarding policies, procedures and systems. This has included a comprehensive review of the federation’s existing policies, procedures and resources.

"As a result, new resources, policies and training are all being implemented."

It said the charity had a new new safeguarding framework and had launched a confidential incident reporting service line for staff.

The statement said the charity was committed to safeguarding all who come into contact with it, and this included safeguarding from any workplace bullying or harassment.

A spokeswoman for the commission said the charity had made a number of serious incident reports about concerns with alleged fraud and sexual harassment in the charity’s Africa regional office.

"We are engaging with the charity on these matters as part of a regulatory compliance case and can’t comment further at this time," she said.

A DfID spokesman said the department was aware of the investigation.

"DfID has a zero-tolerance approach to fraud and corruption of any kind, and we have been very clear that we will not tolerate practices that do not reach the highest standards," he said.

"Where wrongdoing has been identified, we expect our partners to take firm and immediate action."

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