Oxfam accused of failure of ‘moral leadership’ over Haiti sex claims

Penny Mordaunt said Oxfam had shown an 'absolute absence of leadership'
Penny Mordaunt said Oxfam had shown an 'absolute absence of leadership'

Oxfam lied and failed in its “moral leadership” in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct by aid workers, the international development secretary has said.

Penny Mordaunt condemned the behaviour of some Oxfam staff members as a “complete betrayal”, as she warned the charity the “scandal” had put its relationship with the government at risk.

Oxfam is facing mounting criticism over its handling of sex allegations, but has denied it tried to cover up the use of prostitutes by workers in Haiti in 2011.

Ms Mordaunt told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show that the failure to pass on information to relevant authorities shows an “absolute absence of leadership”.

Asked by Marr if she thought Oxfam had failed in its “moral leadership”, the Conservative MP replied: “Yes, I do.”

Ms Mordaunt announced she would meet the charity on Monday to discuss the case, and said: “If the moral leadership at the top of the organisation is not there then we can not have you as a partner.”

Charities, including Oxfam, have been told they will have funding withdrawn if they fail to comply with authorities over safeguarding issues.

The Charity Commission said on Saturday that it had written to Oxfam “as a matter of urgency” to request further information.

The regulator said an Oxfam report on the investigation stated there had been no allegations of abuse of beneficiaries and made no mention of any potential sexual crimes involving minors.

“Our approach to this matter would have been different had the full details that have been reported been disclosed to us at the time,” it said in a statement.

Ms Mordaunt said the charity had also “categorically” stated to the Department for International Development (DfID) that no harm was done and beneficiaries were not involved.

Marr said: “That was a lie, wasn’t it?”

Ms Mordaunt replied: “Well, quite.”

She added that Oxfam had done “absolutely the wrong thing” by failing to inform authorities about the full details of the allegations.

Four members of Oxfam staff were dismissed and three, including the country director, resigned before the end of the 2011 investigation.