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Oxfam faces fresh probe over Haiti prostitutes scandal

AFP  |  London 

must conduct a "full and urgent investigation" into following an alleged cover-up of its staff hiring prostitutes in during a 2011 relief effort on the earthquake-hit island, the prime minister's office said to.

"The reports of what is unacceptable behaviour by senior aid workers in are truly shocking," a for said.

"We want to see provide all the evidence they hold of the events to the for a full and urgent investigation of these very serious allegations."

The call came as the British charities regulator released its own statement detailing Oxfam's previous disclosure of the events, including that it characterised the misconduct as "inappropriate sexual behaviour."

"Our approach to this matter would have been different had the full details that have been reported been disclosed to us at the time," the commission said.

It confirmed asking to urgently provide fresh information.

Yesterday, the (DFID) also said it was reviewing its relationship with the UK-based charity, to which it gave nearly 32 million (USD 44 million) last year.

It said Oxfam's leaders had "showed a lack of judgement" in their handling of the matter and their level of openness with the government and

"The is reviewing our current work with Oxfam and has requested a meeting with the senior team at the earliest opportunity," a DFID said.

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

Oxfam said today it receives less than 10 per cent of its funding from DFID and hoped to continue working with the department while rebuilding trust with the public.

He admitted Oxfam did not give full details of the scandal to the commission in 2011 but insisted it "did anything but cover it up".

"With hindsight, I would much prefer that we had talked about (the) sexual misconduct," Goldring told radio.

"But I don't think it was in anyone's best interest to be describing the details of the behaviour in a way that was actually going to draw extreme attention to it."

The charity is under growing pressure after an investigation by found young sex workers were hired by senior staff in after the 2010 earthquake which devastated the island and left up to 300,000 people dead.

Groups of young prostitutes were invited to homes and guesthouses paid for by the charity for sex parties, according to one source who claimed to have seen footage of an orgy with sex workers wearing Oxfam t-shirts.

In further revelations yesterday, the paper said Oxfam failed to warn other aid agencies about the staff involved, which allowed them to get jobs among vulnerable people in other disaster areas.

Roland van Hauwermeiren, 68, whom Oxfam said was forced to resign as Haiti in 2011 after allegedly admitting hiring prostitutes, went on to become head of mission for Action Against Hunger in from 2012 to 2014.

The French charity told AFP it made pre-employment checks with Oxfam but that the UK-based organisation "did not share with us the reasons for his resignation as in Haiti or the results of its internal inquiry."

"Moreover we received positive references from former Oxfam staff -- in their individual capacities -- who worked with him," including from a human resources staffer, a said.

In a statement, Oxfam denied providing positive references for those implicated.

It said the vast number of aid operations working around the globe meant it was "not possible... to ensure that those found guilty of sexual misconduct were not re-employed in the sector.

"Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do to stop individuals falsifying references, getting others that were dismissed to act as referees and claiming it was a reference from Oxfam," a added.

And there was also nothing to stop them from getting former or current staff to provide a reference "in a personal capacity," she said.

The charity said it launched an immediate investigation in 2011 which found a "culture of impunity" among some staff but has denied trying to cover up the scandal.

During the probe, Oxfam dismissed four staff members and another three resigned, including van Hauwermeiren.

The charity also said it had yet to find evidence proving allegations that underage girls were involved.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sat, February 10 2018. 19:55 IST