Oxfam reported “the matter” of sexual misconduct by aid workers to the Department for International Development (DfID) but did not reveal the nature of the allegations, the former Secretary for International Development has said.
Andrew Mitchell, who was in the role from May 2010 to September 2012, said he was “not informed” about allegations that Oxfam workers hired prostitutes in earthquake-torn Haiti in 2011, which later led to claims of a cover-up by the charity.
Speaking on LBC Radio, Mr Mitchell said this was because while the charity “did report the matter to the various regulators and to DfID”, they did not specify the “nature of the misdemeanours” that had taken place.
“I was not informed of the specific allegations and the case at the time, or indeed afterwards. The first I knew about this was when it appeared in The Times last week,” he said.
“The reason for that is that although to be fair to Oxfam they did report the matter to the various regulators and to DfID, they did not specify the nature of the allegations or the nature of the misdemeanours that had taken place.
“And because of that the department did not escalate it to ministers. They did not tell me and I was never aware of it.
“Had the nature of the misdemeanours and the allegations been made clear to Dfid then there is no doubt that I would’ve been told and of course I would’ve taken the appropriate action immediately.”
Concerns over exploitation by aid workers were sparked on Friday after it emerged Oxfam workers who were accused of hiring prostitutes in earthquake-torn Haiti had been able to go on and work for other aid agencies.
Three members of staff were allowed to resign from the charity and four others were dismissed after an investigation unearthed sexual misconduct, bullying and intimidation, The Times reported.
Oxfam said it had publicly announced an investigation into the allegations when they surfaced in 2011 and denied a cover-up. Nonetheless, the charity’s chief executive Mark Goldring said he was “deeply ashamed” by what had happened.
International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt warned on Sunday morning that the NGO would be stripped of UK aid money unless it handed over all information about its workers’ use of prostitutes,
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Ms Mordaunt also threatened to cut aid funding to charities that fall short on safeguarding and do not cooperate with authorities investigating alleged sexual abuse.
The scandal-hit charity will be confronted at a showdown meeting on Monday, following the revelations about misconduct and possibly abuse in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake.
It has since emerged more than 120 charity workers in Britain have been accused of sexual abuse in the past year alone, sparking fears that overseas NGOs are being targeted by paedophiles who exploit their position.