London Evening Standard/London
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. Oxfam was yesterday reeling after fresh claims of sexual assault and cover-up in South Sudan. Seven percent of staff in South Sudan – four people – witnessed or experienced rape or attempted rape involving colleagues.
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 yesterday 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. “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 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.
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 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.
Pressure on 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.”
Goldring However 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,” Goldring told Channel 4 News on Monday night.
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