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Oxfam should be stripped of government funding, says Witham MP Priti Patel

PUBLISHED: 08:55 10 February 2018 | UPDATED: 09:16 10 February 2018

Witham MP Priti Patel. Picture: DOMINIC LIPINSKI

Witham MP Priti Patel. Picture: DOMINIC LIPINSKI

PA Wire/PA Images

Essex MP Priti Patel has called for Oxfam to be stripped of its government funding in the wake of sex allegations against some of the charity’s staff.

The Government is also reviewing its relationship with Oxfam. The Department for International Development (DfID) took the decision after the charity denied claims it had covered up the use of prostitutes by aid workers in Haiti.

Oxfam said it had publicly announced an investigation into the allegations when they surfaced in 2011 and kept the Charity Commission informed.

It comes amid fresh reports in The Times that Oxfam did not tell other aid agencies about the behaviour of staff involved in the investigation after they left to work elsewhere.

The revelations have been condemned by former international development secretaries, including Witham MP Ms Patel, who told The Times: “Those responsible for these crimes should be prosecuted and UK aid should be withdrawn from this scandalous organisation.”

Ms Patel was in charge of Britain’s aid budget until November, when she resigned over her undisclosed meetings with Israeli officials.

She added: “The ultimate question is, why was this covered up? This was in the public interest and, once again, this was UK taxpayers’ money that was used in a most inappropriate way.”

On Twitter on Saturday morning, she wrote: “The shocking scandal of the abuse of women & children in the Aid sector must end. @Oxfam explain to the victims, your donors &to taxpayers what are you doing now to secure the prosecution of those responsible for these crimes in your organisation? The lack of action is shameful.”

Oxfam said in a statement: “The behaviour of some members of Oxfam staff uncovered in Haiti in 2011 was totally unacceptable, contrary to our values and the high standards we expect of our staff.

“As soon as we became aware of the allegations, we immediately launched an internal investigation.

“Our primary aim was always to root out and take action against those involved, and we publicly announced, including to media, both the investigation and the action we took as a result.”

Four members of staff were dismissed and three, including the country director, resigned before the end of the investigation, Oxfam said.

The charity added that the Charity Commission was aware the investigation related to “inappropriate sexual behaviour” and confirmed that it had taken “appropriate action”.

A DfID spokesman said: “We often work with organisations in chaotic and difficult circumstances.

“If wrongdoing, abuse, fraud, or criminal activity occur we need to know about it immediately, in full.

“The way this appalling abuse of vulnerable people was dealt with raises serious questions that Oxfam must answer.

“We acknowledge that hundreds of Oxfam staff have done no wrong and work tirelessly for the people they serve, but the handling by the senior team about this investigation and their openness with us and the charity commission showed a lack of judgement.

“We have a zero tolerance policy for the type of activity that took place in this instance, and we expect our partners to as well.

“The Secretary of State is reviewing our current work with Oxfam and has requested a meeting with the senior team at the earliest opportunity.”

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “The reports of what is unacceptable behaviour by senior aid workers in Haiti are truly shocking.

“Charities should have robust systems in place to ensure the highest standards of transparency and safeguarding procedures to protect vulnerable people - and ultimately must maintain public trust.

“We want to see Oxfam provide all the evidence they hold of the events to the Charity Commission for full and urgent investigation of these very serious allegations.”

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