Oxfam in crisis talks with ministers

The scandal-hit charity is meeting the Department for International Development, which has warned the organisation that it could lose £34m of funding

Oxfam is to hold crisis talks today with the Department for International Development that could see the international aid charity stripped of £34m in government funding after revelations about sexual exploitation by aid workers in Haiti and Chad.

On Friday, The Times revealed that three Oxfam employees in Haiti had resigned and four were sacked for gross misconduct after the charity concluded an investigation into allegations of sexual exploitation, bullying and intimidation, and the downloading of pornography.

Oxfam has since apologised "unreservedly" and announced a range of measures to strengthen its safeguarding policy.

A statement from Penny Mordaunt, Secretary of State for International Development, said that the Oxfam allegations were an example of "a wider issue on which DfID is already taking action, both at home and with the international community via the UN".

Mordaunt said: "With regard to Oxfam and any other organisation that has safeguarding issues, we expect them to cooperate fully with such authorities, and we will cease to fund any organisation that does not."

She said she would be writing to all charities that receive aid money to ensure their safeguarding policies wer working properly, and would be meeting Oxfam today to ascertain whether they were responding appropriately to the sexual exploitation claims.

The UK government is by far the biggest single contributor to Oxfam. It provided £34m in funding in 2016/17 for a range of specific programmes and through DfID’s partnership programme arrangement and back-donor funding for the Disasters and Emergencies Preparedness Programme.

According to the charity’s latest accounts, UK funding for its aid programmes is greater than that provided by every other contributing government put together, with the Swedish government the second-highest donor to Oxfam at £7.9m.

Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show yesterday, Mordaunt said that Oxfam had shown "an absolute absence of leadership".

The Charity Commission previously said that Oxfam told it about an ongoing internal investigation into allegations of misconduct by staff in the charity’s Haiti programme after the 2010 earthquake in the country, but did not inform the regulator of the nature of the claims or that it involved "potential sexual crimes involving minors".

Further allegations about Oxfam aid workers emerged over the weekend, with the charity confirming that it was aware of claims of sexual misconduct in Chad, but was unable to corroborate the information.

The statement said that the allegations about its programme in the west African nation highlighted "unacceptable behaviour by a small number of people and the need for a sector-wide approach to tackle the problem".

The charity has been the subject of criticism over its campaigning recently, specifically in an article by the former charities minister Rob Wilson about the charity’s critiques of capitalism.

In a statement, the commission said its approach to the Haiti case "would have been different had the full details that have been reported been disclosed to us at the time" and it would be meeting Oxfam to discuss the incident.

"We have written to the charity as a matter of urgency to request further information regarding the events in Haiti in 2011 to establish greater clarity on this matter. This includes a timeline of events, information about when the charity was made aware of specific allegations and the detail of the investigation’s findings and conclusions," the statement said.

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