Oxfam internal inquiry reveals workers threatened colleague investigating abuse claims in effort to maintain silence

Offences reported 'related to sexual exploitation, fraud, negligence and nepotism'

Jack Hardy
Monday 19 February 2018 02:06 GMT
Leaked details of the report resulted in 'three of the suspects physically threatening and intimidating one of the witness'
Leaked details of the report resulted in 'three of the suspects physically threatening and intimidating one of the witness' (Reuters)

A newly released 2011 internal report into alleged abuse by Oxfam aid workers reveals how three members of the organisation’s Haiti team physically threatened a colleague sent to investigate misconduct claims.

The report sheds light on how a tip-off bloomed into a scandal which has now shamed the organisation.

An email on 12 July 2011 from the “Latin America & the Caribbean Region” alerted staff to a spate of potential code of conduct breaches.

Offences reported “related to sexual exploitation (use of prostitutes in OGB (Oxfam GB) guest houses and sexual harassment of staff), fraud, negligence and nepotism”, according to the newly released document.

Investigators were also alerted that country director (CD) Roland Van Hauwermeiren had allegedly used prostitutes at his “OGB funded residence”, prompting a decision to probe claims against him first.

Three people were sent to Haiti to covertly investigate the accusations during four days. The report concluded: “The only substantiated allegations against the CD were of the use of prostitutes in his OGB residence.”

It continues: “During the interview the CD admitted using prostitutes in his OGB residence. On being briefed on the wider allegations, he took full responsibility and offered to resign.

“After further discussion... it was agreed that OGB might accept his resignation, and allow him a phased and dignified exit, provided he would fully cooperate with the rest of the investigation.”

This was partly in recognition of the “significant contribution he made in his time with OGB”, the report added.

Mr Van Hauwermeiren last week denied ever using sex workers in Haiti.

Forty witnesses were interviewed during the investigation, but the leaking of an official report resulted in “3 of the suspects... physically threatening and intimidating one of the witness”, leading to further charges of bullying and intimidation.

The report ended: “None of the inititial allegations concerning fraud, nepotism, or use of under-age prostitutes was substantiated during the investigation, although it cannot be ruled out that any of the prostitutes were under age.”

Press Association

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