Regulator rebukes Oxfam over sexual assault failings


Trustees being kept in the dark over serious incidents 

11th December 2017 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

Oxfam has been rebuked by the Charity Commission over sexual harassment failings.

At the behest of the regulator, the international aid charity is currently undertaking a review into the behaviour of some of its foreign staff after its former country director in Nigeria, Lesley Agams, complained of a sexual assault by a senior colleague in 2010.

After complaining, Agams was sacked by the same man three months later.

The Charity Commission raised concerns about the way trustees were running the charity saying that decision makers were being kept in the dark about serious incidents. 

In the past year seven out of 37 Oxfam country directors around the world have been investigated over serious allegations including cases of sexual harassment and covering up evidence of sexual exploitation.

The commission’s investigation had identified problems with the way serious allegations of sexual harassment and exploitation were handled by senior management and trustees.

Harvey Grenville, the commission’s head of investigations and enforcement, said: “The public hold charities to high standards. There is further work for [Oxfam] to do to in respect of HR culture, and the overall governance and management of safeguarding.”

An Oxfam spokesperson said: “The review is a chance for us to identify where we can improve further so that we, and other organisations facing similar challenges, do everything possible to prevent sexual harassment and abuse happening in the first place and better handle any allegations when they occur.”

Oxfam’s annual report said that it investigated 87 reported safeguarding incidents in 2016-17, 25 of which were from its international division and the other 62 from British sections, including its charity shops.