Monday 17 December 2018

Ministers to probe sex-for-aid 'cover-up'

Penny Mordaunt. Photo: PA
Penny Mordaunt. Photo: PA

Christopher Hope, Harry Yorke and Martin Evans in London

UK ministers have launched an investigation into claims that foreign aid officials brushed off allegations of child abuse committed by aid workers.

Priti Patel, who ran the Department for International Development (Dfid) until November, said that the Oxfam prostitution scandal was "the tip of the iceberg" but that her own officials "dismissed" her concerns when she raised them.

Oxfam, one of the world's largest charities, is facing mounting criticism over its handling of sex allegations but has denied it tried to cover up the use of prostitutes by workers who were supposed to be helping victims of an earthquake in Haiti in 2011.

Paul Goldring, the charity's chief executive, will meet Penny Mordaunt, the UK's International Development Secretary, today after she threatened to withdraw millions of pounds of government funding to Oxfam.

He is expected to insist that Oxfam did not inform ministers of the abuse allegations in 2011 because it decided staff accused of paying prostitutes were not guilty of exchanging "sex for aid".

Ms Mordaunt said the British charity had lied and failed in its "moral leadership" in the wake of the allegations.

Ms Patel, in an article in today's 'Daily Telegraph', raises the political pressure on Ms Mordaunt by claiming that Dfid officials had failed to take her concerns seriously. She adds that the department's civil servants failed to support her when she tried to raise concerns at the UN last September.

She says she had tried to ensure "accountability not just on aid effectiveness, but also the sexual abuse, not just of adults, but also the rape of children".

She says: "I would like to say that I was supported and presented with facts from the department laying out the long history that UK governments, Labour and Conservative, had in tackling this global problem. Sadly, I can't. When I raised this issue in Dfid, it was dismissed." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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