Minister in talks with Oxfam Scotland after prostitution scandal

Penny Lawrence resigned after the scandalPenny Lawrence resigned after the scandal
Penny Lawrence resigned after the scandal

Scotland’s international development minister, Alasdair Allan, has held crisis talks with Oxfam seeking assurances that projects involving the Scottish Government are not caught up in the charity’s prostitution scandal.

The Scottish Government has awarded Oxfam Scotland more than £7 million in funding since 2008.

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The most recent award from the government’s International development and climate justice pot was made in September last year for a projects in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia as well as other crises across the globe. Mr Allan spoke to Oxfam after reports of a sex scandal involving aid workers including the use of prostitutes in Haiti in 2011.

Oxfam deputy chief executive Penny Lawrence has resigned following the disclosures, saying she took full responsibility for what had happened on her watch.

The charity has issued an “unreserved apology” to the UK government which has given the charity more than £31m in funding.

The apology has been extended to donors, supporters and the people of Haiti.

Yesterday a Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is deeply concerned by the reports of serious misconduct by Oxfam staff in Haiti. The Scottish Government became aware of these reports over the weekend, following which the international development minister, Dr Alasdair Allan, spoke with Oxfam Scotland to make clear that any kind of sexual abuse or misconduct is completely unacceptable.

“The Scottish Government expects all partner organisations to monitor their work closely, and to be open, honest and transparent with us whenever there are any suggestions of abuse or malpractice, especially in relation to projects jointly funded by the public sector. We will be writing to Oxfam and other international NGOs to reiterate our position and to seek discussions on their safeguarding policies to protect vulnerable groups. We will consider any further action needed as a result.”

Haiti’s president, Jovenel Moise, condemned Oxfam, saying: “What happened is an extremely serious violation of human dignity.

“This case is all the more odious because the funds which financed these crimes were obtained from the British people in a spirit of altruism and solidarity towards the Haitian people.”

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The charity has been accused of concealing the findings of a 2011 inquiry into claims senior aid workers, including Haiti’s national director, paid local prostitutes for sex.

Oxfam was in the country offering relief following a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake that killed more than 200,000 people in 2010.

An Oxfam spokesperson said: “Since the media revelations first broke we have remained in communication with the Scottish Government, including directly with the international development minister, Dr Allan, and civil servants. The behaviours which have been highlighted in recent media reports are utterly shameful.”