REVELATIONS that charity workers sexually exploited disaster survivors are the ‘tip of the iceberg’, a former government minister has claimed.
Aid bosses are in denial about sexual exploitation, Priti Patel said after it emerged Oxfam staff sent to help Haiti recover from the 2010 earthquake had hired prostitutes there for sex parties.
The ex-international development secretary said ‘predatory paedophiles’ had infiltrated charities.
And she told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Pienaar’s Politics yesterday: ‘There has been, in my view, not just a cover-up with Oxfam, there is a culture of denial in the aid sector about the exploitation and sexual abuse that has taken place historically for decades.’
The comments follow an investigation by The Times that revealed Oxfam let three men resign and sacked four others for gross misconduct after an inquiry into sexual exploitation. The charity has been accused of failing to disclose full details to watchdogs of its findings about the behaviour.
A report had said there was evidence of a ‘culture of impunity’ among some staff in Haiti and warned that sexual exploitation of children could not be ruled out. Among staff who quit were Oxfam’s Haiti director Roland van Hauwermeiren, said to have admitted inviting prostitutes to a villa rented for him with charity funds.
Claims surfaced yesterday that, when the 68-year-old ran Oxfam’s operation in impoverished African nation Chad in 2006, prostitutes were invited to his team’s house there. After he left Oxfam, he was hired by another charity.
Ms Patel said aid organisations had let down the ‘world’s most vulnerable people’ by failing to set up a database of workers guilty of exploitation or abuse.
The MP, who had to resign as a minister last year after holding unauthorised meetings with the Israelis, said: ‘Databases of these predatory paedophiles are needed to stop this disgusting and corrosive culture of the revolving door in aid agencies.’
Ms Patel’s replacement Penny Mordaunt said yesterday the government could stop funding Oxfam, which it paid £32million in the last financial year.
She told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show: ‘When this was reported to them, they completely failed to do the right thing.
‘If they do not hand over all the information they have to the relevant authorities, I cannot work with them any more.’