Oxfam sacked 43 over safeguarding issues in the year to March

Its latest progress report says it received 294 safeguarding reports globally in that time, including 23 cases of sexual abuse and 74 of sexual harassment

Oxfam aid packages (Photograph: Andrew Cowie/AFP/Getty Images)
Oxfam aid packages (Photograph: Andrew Cowie/AFP/Getty Images)

- This story has been amended; see final paragraph

Oxfam International dismissed 43 people because of safeguarding concerns in the year to March 2019, it has revealed.

The charity’s latest progress report, published today, said it had received 294 safeguarding reports across its global operation, including 23 cases of sexual abuse and 74 cases of sexual harassment.

There were also 25 accusations of exploitation, including paying for sex, and 98 cases involving other forms of misconduct, such as bullying.

This had resulted in 79 disciplinary cases which led to 43 people being dismissed, the charity said. 

The figures were collated from 19 affiliate organisations employing about 10,000 staff worldwide.

Oxfam committed to collecting and publishing figures on its safeguarding after The Times newspaper reported in February last year that seven Oxfam staff members had resigned or been sacked in relation to accusations that they had employed local women as sex workers while working in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.

Although the charity had told the Charity Commission that there had been an incident of sexual misconduct at the time, it failed to make clear the full extent of the misconduct.

The story sparked a safeguarding scandal across the whole international development sector.

Of the 294 cases reported in the year to 31 March 2019, 79 led to dismissals, 45 led to non-disciplinary action such as training, 10 resulted in resignations and in 58 cases there was insufficient evidence and the allegations were not upheld.

One case was later identified as not related to safeguarding, in 21 cases the complainant did not wish to go forward to an investigation and in seven cases there was no information available.

The commitment to publish the figures was part of the charity’s 10-point plan to improve after the scandal.

The charity has also introduced single case management across every county in which it works and there are more roles dealing with safeguarding and culture change.

Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International, said in a statement: "Oxfam is a different organisation from 14 months ago, when we launched our 10-point action plan.

"We have underpinned our unconditional apologies for the specific mistakes we made in Haiti in 2011 with real action. We are determined to learn, cooperate and improve, and I believe we're beginning to see the tangible results."

Byanyima said she believed Oxfam staff now had a deeper appreciation of what was acceptable behaviour and more trust in the new processes to challenge it.

But she said the charity realised it had more to do and there was no "job done" end date.

An independent commission established by Oxfam to examine its culture and working practice was expected to produce its final report this month, but the statement from Oxfam said it was now expected next month.

In a statement, the independent commission did not say why the publication of final report has been delayed.

It said: "The commission works diligently to develop rich and rigorous recommendations and will make these public when it has fully assessed the results of staff interviews, field visits and research material."

- The article originally said 79 staff had been dismissed by Oxfam but the charity subsequently said it had made a mistake in the press release. 

The story also originally said the charity informed the Charity Commission that there had been misconduct but it failed to make clear that it entailed sexual misconduct and had involved people who could be viewed as beneficiaries.

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