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UK Charity Commission Accuses Oxfam, Says it Failed to Spot Poor Behaviour

Oxfam has been disparaged by the United Kingdom Charity Commission for failing to halt wrongful behaviour by its employees in the Central American country of Haiti. After one-year since four employees of the British charity were accused of using prostitutes in the state after the 2010 earthquake, the UK not-for-profit regulator has faulted the firm for the way it dealt with claims of serious misconduct.

In reaction to the report by the UK Charity Commission, Oxfam tendred an apology, saying what happened in Haiti was “shameful”.

Roland van Hauwermeiren, Oxfam-Great Britain Country director, was the top casualty of the disgraced staff. He was first smeared with child abuse claims during his three-year stint in Chad between 2006 and 2009.

The Times reported that Oxfam was aware of concerns about the conduct of Mr. Van Hauwermeiren and another man during their time in Chad before they received senior roles in Haiti.

“What went wrong in Haiti did not happen in isolation,” Helen Stephenson Charity Commission chief executive said. The commission accused top officials at the international charity organization of mismanagement.

“Over a period of years, Oxfam’s internal culture tolerated poor behaviour, and at times lost sight of the values it stands for,” Stephenson noted.

Caroline Thomson, Oxfam’s chair of trustees, described the findings as “uncomfortable”.

“What happened in Haiti was shameful and we are deeply sorry,” she said. It was a terrible abuse of power and an affront to the values that Oxfam holds dear,” Thompson said.

A 2011 internal investigation had relived Hauwermeiren and four others of their positions in the firm. The report, however, failed to mentioned sexual exploitation as one of the crimes committed by the  X-Country Director.

Haiti has since banned the firm from operating within its borders and thousands of donors have since withdrawn funding to the organization. This is not the first UK based organization that has come under fire for its human management. After two staff of Amnesty International committed suicide last year, a report released in February found out that AI has a “toxic” working environment, with widespread bullying, public humiliation, discrimination and other abuses of power.

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