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Oxfam dismisses members of staff following investigation into abuses of power

By PA News

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Oxfam GB commissioned an external team to investigate abuses of power in the DRC in November 2020 (Yui Mok/PA)

Oxfam has dismissed three members of staff following an investigation into allegations of abuses of power in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Allegations were also upheld against a former employee whose contract with the charity has now expired and the outcome has been noted on the employee’s record.

The investigation upheld a number of allegations including nepotism against three individuals, sexual misconduct against two, bullying and intimidation against one and inappropriate relationships and a failure to manage conflicts of interest against one person.

A number of other allegations were investigated but were not substantiated.

Further investigations continue into more allegations of misconduct, with one member of staff currently suspended, Oxfam said.

Oxfam GB chief executive Danny Sriskandarajah said: “I apologise to everyone who has been hurt by these abuses of power and I hope the action we have taken demonstrates our resolve to tackle all forms of misconduct.

“Oxfam is committed to doing all we can to prevent abuses of power and to taking action where wrongdoing is found.

“We strongly encourage anyone who has concerns to report them, so we can hold those responsible for misconduct accountable.

“I would like to thank all those who have assisted the investigation so far, especially survivors and witnesses. I am also grateful to our staff in DRC who continue to work tirelessly to deliver our lifesaving work.”

Oxfam has been active in the DRC since 1961, with its work focused primarily on humanitarian projects such as providing long-term access to clean drinking water.

Oxfam GB commissioned an external team to investigate abuses of power in the DRC in November 2020 and, as a result, the UK halted aid funding for Oxfam in April.

The Times newspaper previously reported the allegations against Oxfam staff in the country were outlined in a 10-page letter sent to charity bosses in February.

Oxfam has been under the spotlight in recent years after the Charity Commission determined in 2019 it had not fully disclosed allegations staff working in disaster zones had sexually abused children.

The watchdog also cited a “culture of poor behaviour” among Oxfam GB staff sent to help victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

Allegations included that child prostitutes were used by staff, including at Oxfam premises on the crisis-hit Caribbean island, and that safeguarding measures to protect the vulnerable were inadequate.

Statutory supervision of the charity was lifted in February after it implemented a majority of the 100 recommendations prompted by the inquiry.

A Charity Commission spokeswoman said: “Since our 2019 inquiry called for ‘significant systemic and cultural’ change to keep people safe from harm, we have been holding Oxfam to account for its progress in improving safeguarding.

“As part of this, we have been actively liaising with the charity on its investigations into concerning allegations of staff misconduct in the DRC since September last year, and have been receiving regular updates on the charity’s work to address these matters.

“This includes the recent decision to dismiss members of staff. Our engagement with the charity continues.”

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