Chief executive of Oxfam, Mark Goldring, is under investigation over the charity's handling of the to sex abuse claim in Haiti. He will be interrogated by members of parliament.
Goldring will be questioned about Oxfam's work in the Caribbean country, amid allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by staff after the 2010 earthquake. The investigation will be centered on a complaint lodged about the response of senior management to requests to re-open a 2010 case.
Oxfam vice-chair of trustees, Gavin Stewart, said: “Oxfam takes all complaints seriously and so this is being examined by a team that is independent of management and has no previous involvement in this case. I expect the team to report their findings to me on schedule, later this month.”
The vice-chair said the complaint related to events in late 2017 and was made by an individual who was not involved in 2010.
On Monday, Oxfam officially released the findings of its investigation into relief workers sent to Haiti in 2010 and also issued a formal apology to the Haitian government. The 10-page report concluded charities should be warned about “problem staff.”
Goldring, along with two chairs of trustees, will appear before the Commons International Development Committee.
“He is really respected in the sector; he is seen to be a good leader and a sensible voice. He has done a huge amount of work at Oxfam,” Vicky Browning of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo) said about Goldring, adding that the charity should have been explicitly transparent about the sexual exploitation scandal in Haiti in 2011.
“It was not fully open. It didn’t go far enough. If you are going to be transparent only about some of the things you hear and know, that’s not good – that can be dangerous.
“Given that Oxfam talks about justice and poverty – that’s what it’s for – it has to be robust enough to stand by those things when people have a go [at it]. We need to tackle what this is really about.”
Browning also stated that she was “disappointment” by comments from outgoing Charity Commission chair, William Shawcross. She said, “some of the charities’ umbrella bodies see themselves as trades unions for their members, rather than encouraging them to see that their conduct may sometimes be imperfect.”
The Acevo chief added that she hopes for improved relations with Shawcross’ nominated successor, Tina Stowell – a member of the House of Lords.
“There are really important questions to be asked about moving this process [of appointing the commission chair] away from the political fray,” Browning warned of Stowell's affiliations.
Browning also commented on the low profile kept by Tracey Crouch, who serves primarily as minister for sports with added responsibilities for loneliness, since the scandal broke.
Last year, the minister for sport and civil society had comment that charities must take the time to focus on planning for the future and looking for new partnerships and opportunities, rather than just on the day-to-day running of key services.
“I have long been in awe of our charities,” Crouch said. “Large and small, they work tirelessly to address some of the most pressing problems we face, driven by the passion and commitment of incredible staff and volunteers.
“But I believe that there is even more potential that can be unlocked if we can find ways to make partnership across all sectors easier and more effective.”
The Browning-led Acevo has 1,200 members ranging from leaders of small community-based groups, to medium-sized charities and international NGOs.
Goldring is not a currently a member of the group.
“I would like him to be,” Browning said. “We need to be seen unequiv–ocally as the organization that develops and supports good leadership in the sector. That’s our niche, but in the recent past I don’t think that has always been seen as our full focus.”