LONDON (AP) — The British government is reviewing its relationship with the anti-poverty charity Oxfam after a newspaper reported that some members of its staff used prostitutes while working in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake that devastated the country.
The U.K.’s Department for International Development sharply criticized the charity for its lack of transparency as questions swirled about the level of detail Oxfam provided when it first reported the allegations. The agency, which gave 31.7 million pounds ($43.8 million) to Oxfam last year, demanded that senior officials of the charity meet with it to explain their actions.
“If wrongdoing, abuse, fraud or criminal activity occur, we need to know about it immediately, in full,” the agency said. “The way this appalling abuse of vulnerable people was dealt with raises serious questions that Oxfam must answer.”
The Times of London reported Friday that misconduct allegations against seven former Oxfam staff included the use of prostitutes and downloading pornography. It said Oxfam’s investigation into the charges was hampered by a “determination to keep it out of the public eye.”
Oxfam says it investigated the allegations in 2011. The charity confirmed it had dismissed four people and allowed three others to resign after an investigation uncovered offenses including sexual misconduct, bullying, intimidation and failure to protect staff. The charity said it had reported the results of its investigation to Britain’s charity regulator and to major donors, including the Department for International Development.
Oxfam said Friday the behavior in Haiti was “totally unacceptable, contrary to our values and the high standards we expect of our staff.” On Saturday, Oxfam was forced to deny further reports that it gave positive references to those dismissed.
“Oxfam has not and would not provide a positive reference for any of those that were dismissed or resigned as a result of the case,” the charity said.
Oxfam said some people may have falsified references or asked individual staff members to provide references, but said it couldn’t prevent such actions.
Corrects number of Oxfam staffers from six to seven.