Charity Commission launches inquiry into Oxfam as deputy CEO resigns

Catherine Neilan
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Haiti Wrestles With Basic Needs As Recovery From Deadly Earthquake Begins
Aid workers, including Oxfam's country director, are alleged to have used prostitutes while in Haiti (Source: Getty)

The Charity Commission has launched a statutory inquiry into Oxfam amid concerns it might not have “fully and frankly disclosed” information about sexual wrongdoing by aid workers in Haiti.

Revelations regarding the charity piled up this evening as Oxfam's former head of safeguarding told Channel 4 News that she had quit the organiation in despair after a string of allegations both in the UK and abroad were covered up.

This comes after the deputy chief executive of Oxfam resigned today, saying she takes full responsibility for failing to "adequately act upon" concerns that were raised about staff behaviour in Haiti and Chad.

Her statement reveals that some allegations involving the use of prostitutes by country director Roland van Hauwermeiren, and members of his team, were raised before he moved to Haiti.

"As programme director at the time, I am ashamed that this happened on my watch and I take full responsibility," Lawrence said. "I am desperately sorry for the harm and distress that this has caused to Oxfam’s supporters, the wider development sector and most of all the vulnerable people who trusted us.

"It has been such a privilege to work for such an amazing organisation that has done and needs to continue to do such good in the world."

Her resignation follows a in a report in the Times on Friday, in which van Hauwermeiren was alleged to have used prostitutes at a villa rented for him by Oxfam in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake.

Oxfam knew about the allegations at the time and launched an internal investigation, as a result of which four members of staff were dismissed. Van Hauwermeiren and two others were allowed to resign before the end of the investigation.

The charity made public the fact that "serious misconduct" had taken place in Haiti and issued a press release - but did not give details of the allegations.

Mark Goldring, Oxfam’s chief executive, said: "I deeply respect Penny’s decision to accept personal responsibility. Like us, she is appalled at what happened and is determined to do what is best for Oxfam and the people we exist to help.

"I would like to place on record my sincere thanks for the years of dedicated service that Penny has given to Oxfam and the fight against poverty around the world."

International development secretary Penny Mordaunt is today meeting with chiefs of Oxfam to determine what took place and the next steps. She has warned that that charity - and others - risk losing their government funding if they do not show "moral leadership".

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