In Brief

Oxfam criticised by regulator over Haiti sex claims

Charity Commission savages Oxfam's ‘culture of poor behaviour’ and ‘mismanagement’

Oxfam failed to report child abuse claims against its staff in Haiti and had a “culture of tolerating poor behaviour,” according to the Charity Commission.

The regulator has published its much-anticipated findings into the charity’s handling of allegations that its aid workers used prostitutes after the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

The report found that Oxfam “repeatedly fell below standards expected, had a culture of tolerating poor behaviour and... failed to meet promises made on safeguarding, ultimately letting everyone down”.

Oxfam has accepted the findings, saying what occurred in Haiti was “shameful”.

Commenting on the development, the BBC’s Manveen Rana said: “It's rare to see such strong criticism of a charity” and pointed out that Oxfam has been “bleeding financial support” since the story broke, losing 7,000 regular donors worth £14m.

The Mirror says the report “slammed” Oxfam, while Sky News and the Express both described the verdict of the commission as “damning”.

According to the Charity Commission’s 142-page report, which follows an 18-month investigation, Oxfam did not report allegations of child abuse by its staff in Haiti and failed to adequately investigate claims that children as young as 12 or 13 were victims of sexual misconduct.

The report also found that Oxfam treated some senior staff more leniently than junior staff over Haiti and that the impact on victims was not taken seriously enough.

“What went wrong in Haiti did not happen in isolation,” Charity Commission chief executive Helen Stephenson said. “Over a period of years, Oxfam's internal culture tolerated poor behaviour, and at times lost sight of the values it stands for.”

The watchdog issued Oxfam GB with an official warning and the charity must now disclose a plan of action to improve its standards and implement the report’s recommendations.

In response to the report, Oxfam's chair of trustees, Caroline Thomson, said the charity accepted the findings, describing them as “uncomfortable”.

“What happened in Haiti was shameful and we are deeply sorry,” she said. “It was a terrible abuse of power and an affront to the values that Oxfam holds dear.”

She added: “I am confident that Oxfam GB is changing, and that the steps we are taking are putting Oxfam on the right path for the future.”

The Times, which first broke news of the scandal, said the Charity Commission’s report will present Rory Stewart, the international development secretary, with a “difficult decision on whether to reinstate funding to Oxfam, withdrawn after the scandal”.

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