Feb. 13 (UPI) — Oxfam Deputy Chief Executive Penny Lawrence resigned from her post Monday amid a growing sexual scandal involving the British charity group.
Lawrence said in a statement she was “deeply sad” to resign and “took full responsibility” for alleged sexual misconduct by staff in Chad and Haiti.
Some of the accusations involve Oxfam staff who went to Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake.
The humanitarian aid group, a consortium of international charities, is under fire for allegedly failing to tell the British government’s Charity Commission the full story regarding the purported behavior.
“Over the last few days we have become aware that concerns were raised about the behavior of staff in Chad as well as Haiti that we failed to adequately act upon,” Lawrence said. “It is now clear that these allegations — involving the use of prostitutes and which related to behavior of both the Country Director and members of his team in Chad — were raised before he moved to Haiti.”
“As program director at the time, I am ashamed that this happened on my watch.”
British officials said Oxfam is risking $60 million in annual government funding over a lack of transparency in dealing with the alleged misconduct.
Oxfam CEO Paul Goldberg and Parliament member and International Aid Secretary Penny Mordaunt met Monday to discuss the government’s threat to withhold funding.
At issue is whether Haitian minors were sexually abused.
Oxfam’s Executive Director Winnie Byanyima responded to the scandal in a video message on Monday.
“This is appalling. It hurts me very deeply,” Byanyima said.
“Our priority is to stand alongside the women who were abused, and to root out sexual misconduct from our organization, and we are working on that.”
“We’ve made very clear that had the details of what has come out over the last few days been told to us, we would have dealt with this very differently,” said Michelle Russell, the Charity Commission’s director of investigations. “We were categorically told there was no abuse of beneficiaries involved in the allegations. Nor were we told that there were issues or possible issues around possible crimes, including those involving minors.”
Oxfam said an internal investigation revealed examples of bullying, inappropriate sexual behavior and intimidation of colleagues. No report of sexual abuse of aid recipients was reported.
Andrew MacLeod, former operations chief of the United Nations’ Emergency Coordination Center, said “predatory pedophiles” have infiltrated charities to “access children” in the developing world.
“The impact of sex tourism laws make it unlawful for anybody to have sex with children under the age of 16 anywhere in the world or aid, abet or support that,” MacLeod said. “If they were adults, this man should be charged in front of the courts in Haiti because prostitution is illegal. If they are children, they should be charged in front of the courts here because he’s broken the sex tourism laws. If they are uncertain, they should pass the dossier to the police for investigation.”