News Headlines > Head of Cafod responds to 'disturbing' Oxfam allegations

12 February 2018 | by Megan Cornwell

Head of Cafod responds to 'disturbing' Oxfam allegations

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Oxfam's Deputy Chief Executive, Penny Lawrence, has stepped down following the investigation into the charity

The head of Cafod, the Catholic Agency For Overseas Development, said on Monday that the charity takes a “zero-tolerance approach” to misconduct and has “robust safeguarding and whistle-blowing policies”.

Cafod’s Director, Chris Bain, issued a statement after The Times newspaper revealed that another British development agency, Oxfam, had concealed the findings of a report into the misconduct of several of its staff in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

Seven employees, including country director Roland Van Hauwermeiren, left the charity after an investigation into using prostitutes, downloading “pornographic and illegal material”, and engaging in bullying and intimidation, The Times reported. Van Hauwermeiren last week denied using prostitutes in Haiti.

Among those dismissed was an aid worker who later went on to work for Cafod. He was accused by a whistleblower of organising sex parties with prostitutes, as well as “bullying, harassing and exposing himself” to female co-workers while working for Oxfam in Haiti.

Cafod said they were unaware of the employee’s previous alleged misconduct and have placed him on leave while they examine the claims made by the newspaper.

Mr Bain said: “Cafod has a zero-tolerance approach to misconduct breaching our Code of Behaviour, including fraud, abuse, intimidation and other acts. We have robust safeguarding and whistle-blowing policies and practices in place to ensure that vulnerable people are protected.”

He said that by receiving two references they had followed “standard practice” in the recruitment process for the ex-Oxfam aid worker.

Cafod’s code of behaviour states that anyone working directly for Cafod or on a consultancy basis must comply with the code, which prohibits “sexual exploitation and sexual abuse”, as well as the exchange of “money, employment, goods or services for sex”.

“It is disheartening that the actions of a few unscrupulous aid workers may undermine trust in the life-saving work done by overseas development and humanitarian agencies, including Cafod, working alongside some of the poorest communities and helping them live life to the fullest,” said Mr Bain.

He added that Cafod was working with other development agencies and the Charity Commission to “strengthen cross-sector information sharing”.

On Monday, Oxfam announced that its Deputy Chief Executive, Penny Lawrence, had resigned over the handling of the sex scandal involving aid workers, although the charity denies there was a cover-up. Senior members of Oxfam also met with the UK’s International Development Secretary in a bid to prevent its government funding from being cut. The charity received £8.4m from Department for International Development in 2016/17.

PICTURE: Doctors treat victims of Haiti earthquake in makeshift hospital in Port-au-Prince. Image from PA.



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