Oxfam scandal: Charity's chief Mark Goldring to face grilling by MPs as sex abuse scandal widens

Oxfam chief executive Mark Goldring is being summoned to fight for his job before a committee of MPs as questions mount about the charity’s response to sexual abuse allegations.

The cross-party International Development Select Committee has called a special hearing for Tuesday next week to grill Oxfam officials and civil servants about what they knew and what action they took.

A bishop warned this morning that the public were outraged by the “hypocrisy” of a charity that hailed its own good works while falling short of the standards that people expected. 

Philip North, the Bishop of Burnley, used the Thought for the Day slot on Radio 4’s Today show to say that before the news that Oxfam workers in Haiti used young women and girls for sex, it was “hard not to be impressed by the sheer goodness” of its work abroad.

“Why have the revelations about staff using prostitutes done Oxfam quite so much damage?” asked the Church of England clergyman.

Tarnished image: Oxfam chief executive Mark Goldring (AFP)

“I think it is because of a widespread cultural abhorrence of hypocrisy. 

“If a charity claims to stand up for truth and justice and fairness, people understandably feel extremely shocked when staff are undermining those values through their moral choices.”

Tory MP Nigel Evans, a member of the Commons committee, said they expected Mr Goldring to personally attend on Tuesday to answer claims that he was warned of multiple allegations of abuse by aid workers and even volunteers in the charity’s shops.

“I want him to come to Parliament and answer these questions himself, and then we can gauge if he is fit for purpose,” he said.

Penny Lawrence has resigned as Deputy Chief Executive of the charity saying she took “full responsibility” for the behaviour of staff in Chad and Haiti (PA)

Paul Scully, another committee member, said: “What concerns me is the drip feed of allegations that keep coming out.” Asked if he had confidence in Mr Goldring, he said: “I think we need to get to the bottom of the investigation.”

Revelations that 123 volunteers in the UK’s 650 Oxfam shops had been sexually harassed over nine years led the umbrella body for charity shops to re-issue “safeguarding” guidance.

Haiti: the charity was accused of covering up staff’s use of prostitutes whilst working in the earthquake-hit country (AFP/Getty Images)

Pressure on Mr Goldring intensified after Helen Evans, Oxfam’s former global head of safeguarding, said she begged senior staff, ministers and the regulator to act on allegations.

In a single day, three new allegations were made against Oxfam staff overseas. 

She told Channel 4 News: “There was one of a woman being coerced to have sex in a humanitarian response by another aid worker, another case where a woman had been coerced in exchange for aid and another one where it had come to our attention where a member of staff had been struck off for sexual abuse and hadn’t disclosed that.”

Mr Goldring’s deputy chief  executive, Penny Lawrence, resigned yesterday saying she felt “ashamed” by what had happened on  her watch.

However, Mr Goldring seems determined to see out the crisis unless the Oxfam board turns against him.

“If our board turn round and say, ‘Actually, you’re not the right person to lead forward’, then I of course would resign immediately,” Mr Goldring told Channel 4 News last night. The Charity Commission announced a statutory inquiry into what went wrong at Oxfam and whether it was “frank” about the severity of problems in Haiti.

Deputy head of the commission David Holdsworth said: “The issues revealed in recent days are shocking and unacceptable.”

Oxfam issued an “unreserved apology” to donors, supporters and the people of Haiti over its mishandling of disclosures that aid workers paid local women for sex parties in 2011 in the aftermath of a massive earthquake. Staff were allowed to resign and be employed elsewhere in the same sector.

The charity received £31.7 million in Government funding in 2016/17.

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