The British government is reviewing its relationship with Oxfam amid a deepening sexual misconduct scandal involving some of the charity's employees working in Haiti after its devastating 2010 earthquake.
Oxfam failed to warn aid agencies about staff caught using prostitutes in earthquake-torn Haiti, allowing them to take jobs among vulnerable people in other disaster zones.
The U.K.'s DFID (Department for International Development) with an annual budget of 13.4 Billion, (how much?) sharply criticised the charity for its lack of transparency as questions swirled about how much detail Oxfam provided when it first reported the allegations. The agency, which gave 31.7 million pounds to Oxfam last year, demanded that Oxfam's senior officials meet with it to explain their actions. Penny Mordaunt, is the Secretary of State for International Development after replacing Priti Patel who resigned from the role in November 2017, and is responsible for administering overseas aid, and minister responsible for the DFID.
Penny's voting record in parliament makes for interesting reading.
Conservative Minister, Penny Mordaunt, Secretary of State for International Development.
"If wrongdoing, abuse, fraud or criminal activity occur, we need to know about it immediately, in full," the agency said. "The way this appalling abuse of vulnerable people was dealt with raises serious questions that Oxfam must answer." whilst obviously forgetting how government treat the poor and disabled in the UK. It ranks of hypocrisy; and why didn't the previous head of the DFID Priti Patel not investigate these sexual abuse allegations whilst minister herself?
Did it really have to take an investigation by the Times, to force the DFID into action? To be seen as being responsible enough? It might seem so, although, as always the public will be the judge of that!
Eight billionaires own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion people who form the poorest half of the world's population, reveals Oxfam!
The Times reported on Friday the 9th Feb 2018, that misconduct allegations against seven former Oxfam staff in Haiti included the use of prostitutes - some of whom may have been under 18 years of age; and downloading pornography. It said Oxfam's investigation into the charges was hampered by a "determination to keep it out of the public eye."
Roland van Hauwermeiren, 68, who was forced to resign as Haiti country director in 2011 after admitting having prostitutes visit his Oxfam villa, went on to become head of mission for Action Against Hunger in Bangladesh in 2012-14. The French charity made pre-employment checks but said that Oxfam “did not share with us any warning regarding [his] unethical conduct, the reasons of his resignation or the results of internal inquiry.”
Oxfam Director Roland van Hauwermeiren admitted using prostitutes in the wake of the Haitoan earthquake
Oxfam says it investigated the allegations in 2011. The charity confirmed it had dismissed four people and allowed three others to resign in the case after an investigation uncovered offenses including sexual misconduct, bullying, intimidation and failure to protect staff.
The charity said it had reported the results of its investigation to Britain's charity regulator and to major donors, including the DFID. The charity commission demanded further information from Oxfam on Saturday, saying it had "made no mention of any potential sexual crimes involving minors,'' when it first reported the investigation in 2011.
"Our approach to this matter would have been different had the full details that have been reported been disclosed to us," the commission reported. Oxfam said, the behavior in Haiti was "totally unacceptable, contrary to our values and the high standards we expect of our staff."
On Saturday Feb 10th, Oxfam was forced to deny further reports that it gave positive references to those it dismissed.
"Oxfam has not and would not provide a positive reference for any of those that were dismissed or resigned as a result of the case," the charity said. Oxfam said some former workers may have falsified references or asked individual staff members to provide references, but said it couldn't prevent such actions.
In 2016 the DFID was taken to task with accusations of misappropriation of funding in the British Overseas Territory of Montserrat, made originally in 2015 by Whistleblower Sean McLaughlin who commenced legal action against the Department in the Eastern Caribbean Court questioning the DFID fraud investigation process. One internal DFID report into the Montserrat government procurement policies, found ‘an abundance of red flags’ with warnings over possible fraud, bribery, kickbacks, nepotism, political interference and conflicts of interest. The UK has reportedly given almost £400 million to Montserrat since a massive volcanic eruption 20 years ago which roughly equated to around £80,000 worth of aid per person.
Should we expect the UK government to investigate the serious allegations of sexual misconduct against Oxfam aid workers, and take seriously their involvement with the UK charity? Should we also expect Penny Mordaunt of successfully concluding an investigation when she herself was accused by the Independent of outright lies after she endorsed a controversial vote leave campaign poster that suggested Turkey would be joining the European Union?
If that wasn't enough; what happened to the £400 million for Montserrat? How much money does the DFID lose each year to fraud? And please, let's not ponder over the departments annual spend of around 13.4 Billion whilst people in the UK are suffering hardships including homelessness during these severe winter months. There just simply isn't enough hours in the day! But why should we expect a full and comprehensive completed investigation by the DFID regards OXFAM, when it failed so miserably in Montserat with Mr McLaughlin? The answer is, we should because they are infact the British government, and work for us, remember?
One thing's for sure, where there's corruption, there's a scandal. Sometimes that scandal will involve a UK government minister, and every so often we might find a conservative politician in the thick of it. Perhaps a Boris hiding in a corridor somewhere hoping the 'Foreign Office' aren't implicated in any untoward business. (I couldn't imagine that kind of incessant and intollerable stress).
The question however, isn't about the sexual misconduct of Oxfam employees. Of course, that itself is important, but hopefully over the next few days we'll see an end to the entire investigation, and by all parties involved. Doubtless further revelations will come to the fore. The question isn't why do the DFID keep losing money to overseas fraud year on year, hand over fist. It's not even about whistleblower Sean McLaughlin who claimed the DFID actually leaked his leak when he was their own whistleblower, or even about that damned sense of injustice!
The question is actually, ''When the British mainstream media investigate an institution like Oxfam knowing it's an investigation that's been going on for a number of years, but fail to include any wrong doing or highlighting any improper behaviour at all relating to a British taxpayer funded foreign aid free for all, which is going on around the world, or to include any misgivings made by the very agency, who, until now have kept very quiet about the entire shoddy affair, and doubtless others we really shouldn't wonder, whilst under the stewardship of two seperate ministers. And knowing full well of the levels and scale of fraud involved; you have to ask,'Who's watching the MSM?''
The world needs whistleblowers, but it certaintly doesn't need news agencies uninterested in reporting the bigger picture to help you make informed decision's as to what's really going on. Or journalists unable to report what they want for fear of job losses at the hands of their editors and owners; or indeed journos that have become 'YES' people. It does not require conflicts of interest where UK government agencies might be concerned, or the fact bosses of big charity organisations make profusely large amounts of money annually, and where the British government in the form of the DFID actually help pay the salaries of those fat cat bosses when handing out billions of pounds in tax payers money. And it certainly doesn't need red flags from anywhere in the world, except perhaps those which currently fly high, proudly representing the Labour party, which incidentally is under new management!
Cordelia Houseman for Political Provocateur
Edited by Simon O'Donnell for Political Provocateur