Regulator was aware of new sexual misconduct allegations when it lifted supervision of Oxfam

The charity has suspended two staff members in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as part of an external investigation into allegations of abuses of power, including bullying and sexual misconduct

The Charity Commission has confirmed it was aware of fresh allegations of bullying and sexual misconduct at Oxfam when it lifted its regulatory oversight of the charity in February. 

The charity has suspended two staff members after The Times newspaper reported claims of abuses of power by senior managers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo over the weekend.

The charity said it has been investigating the concerns since November and the Charity Commission had been kept up-to-date on its progress.

The regulator said it had been liaising with Oxfam regarding these emerging issues, and was therefore aware of the situation when it lifted its statutory supervision of the charity in February.

The commission opened a statutory inquiry into the charity in early 2018 after it emerged that Oxfam had failed to adequately report the extent of sexual misconduct allegations against project workers in Haiti.

Despite lifting its statutory supervision, the Charity Commission said it had continued engaging with the charity as part of its standard regulatory oversight, and it had made clear that effective safeguarding was “never complete” in its previous report.

Following the completion of the statutory inquiry the charity was told by the government last month that it could resume bidding for aid funding after a three-year hiatus.

The charity said it would not confirm the identities of any individuals concerned during an investigation.  

An Oxfam spokesperson said: “We can confirm we have suspended two members of Oxfam staff in the DRC as part of an ongoing external investigation into allegations of abuses of power, including bullying and sexual misconduct. 

“We are acutely aware of our duty to survivors, including in supporting them to speak out safely. We are working hard to conclude the investigation fairly, safely and effectively.”  

The Charity Commission said its 2019 inquiry called for “significant systemic and cultural” change to keep people safe from harm, and it had been holding Oxfam to account for its progress in improving safeguarding. 

A regulator spokeswoman said: “As part of this, we have been actively liaising with the charity on its investigations into concerning allegations of misconduct in the DRC and have been receiving regular updates and assurances on the steps it is taking to address the concerns, including to ensure that the wellbeing and safety of those who reported them is protected. 

“We cannot comment further on what are live cases in which the wellbeing or safety of survivors and those who reported concerns is potentially at risk. This is to ensure the integrity of investigation processes is protected.”

Both the regulator and the charity warned the media against naming those involved to avoid jeopardising the investigation and to protect people, including witnesses and survivors.

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