It was reported yesterday that The Halo Trust has suspended a staff member following a sexual assault allegation.
The way in which charities deal with claims of misconduct and abuse has come under scrutiny in the wake of the Oxfam scandal. The organisation has been accused of concealing the findings of an inquiry into allegations staff used prostitutes while delivering aid in Haiti in 2011.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson acknowledged that defending the UK’s foreign aid budget has been made harder by the events at Oxfam.
Ms Davidson said: “The idea that international helpers that go to a country that’s had a terrible disaster, like Haiti, and use their position – which is to help the most vulnerable – to then exploit them, is probably pretty much the lowest circle of hell that you can find.
“The idea that instead of addressing that behaviour, instead of reporting it, instead of allowing the authorities in the country to deal with it, instead of allowing victims of that behaviour to see justice being done, the idea is that ‘we will protect the reputation that we’ve built up ourselves’ – I think that’s what has really hurt people at the centre of this affair.”
The UK is committed to spending 0.7% on its national income on foreign aid.
“We can’t ignore all the good that aid does, and I know that the 0.7% debate is a big debate,” Ms Davidson said.
“I think (those who support UK aid) have all got a bigger job to do to explain what it actually is that British aid does around the world, and I think what Oxfam has done has just made that job 100% harder.”
Ms Davidson’s comments came as it was reported The Halo Trust, the Dumfries and Galloway-based landmine clearance charity, suspended “a junior Burmese member of staff” in January who is currently being investigated after an allegation of sexual assault.
Ms Davidson visited Afghanistan with The Halo Trust last week.
A statement from the charity, read: “He denies the allegation. The local British Embassy and DFID were informed within 24 hours of the allegation. The Charity Commission has been informed. We take such allegations extremely seriously.”
The Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund last week reported two cases of alleged sexual misconduct involving children, while Mary’s Meals said it had dismissed a staff member over an “inappropriate relationship” with an adult.