Oxfam has received 26 new allegations of misconduct following revelations that staff paid women for sex in the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the chief executive of its British arm told MPs.
Mark Goldring said that the scandal had led to 7,000 people cancelling regular donations to the development charity while corporate sponsors appeared to be reserving judgement on whether to pull their support.
He apologised for the actions of his charity’s staff in Haiti and also his own comments when he appeared to play down the seriousness of the scandal when he said the charity was being criticised as if it had “murdered babies in their cots”.
He told British MPs that 16 of the new reports came from abroad while another ten were related to the UK. He said they were either new reports linked to the stories, or cases where they had not previously been reported. “We really want people to come forward wherever they are and whenever this happened,” he said.
The charity investigated the Haiti allegations in 2011 leading to the dismissal of four members of Oxfam staff and the resignation of three, including the country director Roland van Hauwermeiren.
Mr Goldring told a committee that Oxfam had got it wrong when it failed to detail the sexual exploitation in a public statement about the findings of its investigation, which mentioned bullying, intimidation and breaches of the code of conduct.
“At the time, people thought that was being transparent. We know now that that was not enough,” said Mr Goldring who was not in charge of the charity at the time.
“My colleagues at the time made a set of decisions about how public to go. With hindsight, they made the wrong call. If we were culpable - which we were - we should have been completely transparent."
Mr Goldring said that Oxfam declined to give a reference when another aid charity later inquired about whether it should offer a job to Roland van Hauwermeiren, and merely listed his positions at the charity. “We should have been more pro-active," said Mr Goldring. "We should have said ‘Please call us - there is cause for concern’.”