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Oxfam sacked Haiti boss over allegations of 'inappropriate behaviour' | World news

Dismissal not related to sexual abuse scandal engulfing Oxfam, charity says

Oxfam sacked Haiti boss over allegations of 'inappropriate behaviour' | World news
The logo on the front of an Oxfam bookshop in Glasgow. Photograph: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images

Oxfam’s country director in Haiti was sacked last year following allegations of “mismanagement” and “inappropriate behaviour”, the charity said.

Damien Berrendorf, who served in the role from 2012 to 2017, was dismissed after the allegations were reported through the charity’s own whistleblowing line.

However, the charity made clear that his dismissal was “not related to sexual misconduct” and was “not connected to the case in 2011” where some Oxfam staff working in Haiti in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake were accused of paying for sex. It is alleged those who were paid by the aid workers may have been underage.

A statement from the charity said Berrendorf “was dismissed in 2017 for mismanagement. The dismissal was not related to sexual misconduct and was not connected to the case in 2011, however, there were allegations of inappropriate behaviour.”

What happened in Haiti?

Oxfam has been accused of covering up an inquiry into whether its staff used sex workers in Haiti during a 2011 post-earthquake relief eff ort. It is alleged those who were paid by the aid workers may have been underage. An investigation by the Times found that Oxfam allowed three men to resign and sacked four others for gross misconduct after an inquiry into sexual exploitation, the downloading of photography, bullying and intimidation.

How much money could Oxfam lose?

The government has threatened to cut funds to Oxfam unless it shows “moral leadership”. In 2016-17, Oxfam’s income was £408.6m, according to its annual report, including £31.7m from the DfID. Aidan Warner of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations said: “They will be concerned not just about the money but the endorsement that the relationship with Dfi d represents, and they are clearly working hard to regain the confi dence of the government as well as the public.” 

How much does the DfID give to NGOs?

Last year the UK government dedicated £13.3bn to international aid. About £1.2bn of UK aid is spent annually through NGOs. In 2016, the UK was one of only six countries to spend 0.7% of gross national income on aid, a target set by the UN for all developed countries. P enny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, has said the UK remains committed to this target, despite some Tory MPs calling for it to be dropped.

Should other NGOs be worried?

A number have now been implicated . Some of the employees involved in the Haiti case went on to work for other NGOs. Over the weekend, the Sunday Times also reported that more than 120 workers from Britain’s leading charities have been accused of sexual abuse in the past year. Save the Children, which in 2016 secured multi-year contracts worth £91m with the government, had 31 cases, 10 of which were referred to the police. The British Red Cross, which admitted a “small number of cases of harassment reported in the UK”, received £16.3m in Dfi d funding.

It added: “As soon as the allegations were reported via Oxfam’s whistleblowing line, they were investigated and the individual was dismissed.”

Meanwhile, the Glastonbury festival founder, Michael Eavis, said he would continue to support the charity.

Speaking at the NME Awards on Wednesday night, he said: “We’ve raised millions through the years with Oxfam – six million quid and everyone’s said what a wonderful charity they are and we still support them.

“And for a few dodgy people – like with the NHS you get a few dodgy doctors and it doesn’t discredit the NHS does it. So why should it affect Oxfam?”

Former ambassador Livia Firth, the wife of actor Colin, also said the charity’s relief work should continue but urged Oxfam to properly address the abuse.

She said: “It is appalling to hear the news of the men that have abused the people they were there to help. It’s a betrayal of all who put their faith in them: those who most needed their help. I still believe that such programmes are necessary. It would be a tragedy to see this relief work and advocacy stopped.

“For its part Oxfam must address this abuse diligently and transparently. Oxfam must do everything in its power to heal the damage to those who depend on both its work and the good faith and generosity of its supporters.”

Earlier, Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, accused the charity of failing to show moral leadership by not properly informing donors about the actions of its workers.

Mordaunt said: “No organisation is too big, or our work with them too complex, for me to hesitate to remove funding from them if we cannot trust them to put the beneficiaries of aid first.”

The minister, who said a culture change is needed, is due to meet the National Crime Agency on Thursday after talks with charity bosses, regulators and experts in recent days.

The UK’s Charity Commission launched a statutory inquiry into the aid charity amid concerns it might not have “fully and frankly disclosed” all details about the Haiti allegations.

The charity’s deputy chief executive, Penny Lawrence, also resigned, saying she was “desperately sorry”.