Oxfam Australia chief Helen Szoke says the organisation is urgently reviewing its staff monitoring procedures. (ABC News: Danielle Bonica )
The widening scandal surrounding the UK arm of international aid organisation Oxfam has already had an impact on donations to the charity in Australia.
A small number of benefactors have withdrawn support in the wake of revelations senior staff members from Oxfam UK paid local women in Haiti for sex.
The charity has been threatened with a $50 million cut in funding from the British Government and its deputy chief executive has resigned.
Both Oxfam and Save the Children Australia say they are urgently reviewing their staff-vetting and monitoring procedures in light of the developments.
“From our perspective here in Australia, we’ve had a small number of donors who have contacted us and who have indicated they will be stopping their donations,” Oxfam Australia chief Helen Szoke said.
“I am very worried that the activities that were undertaken in Haiti will lead people to believe that Oxfam is less of an organisation than what I know it to be.
“But fortunately at this stage it’s a very small number. But we’re not complacent about that either.”
A British newspaper reported on Friday Oxfam UK staff paid Haiti locals for sex in a villa rented by the organisation in the aftermath of the earthquake in 2010.
Ms Szoke said Oxfam Australia was urgently reviewing its records in the wake of the revelations.
A devastating earthquake hit the Caribbean nation Haiti in 2010, wreaking havoc in the capital, Port-au-Prince. (Reuters: Swoan Parker)
“We are horrified that this kind of behaviour was done under the banner of Oxfam,” she said. “We are scrutinising what has happened in the past.
“Every member of the Oxfam family at the moment is very carefully looking back through what has happened to ensure that if there were issues, that they are being dealt with appropriately, and if they’re not that they now be dealt with.”
Ms Szoke said four Oxfam Australia staff had been let go for misconduct, including sexual misconduct, in the past five years.
“The approach that we are taking is that we need to triple check that matters of the past have been appropriately dealt with,” she said.
Oxfam scandal continues to deepen
The scandal unfolding in the UK has also sent shockwaves across the aid industry globally.
Save the Children Australia chief executive Paul Ronalds said his organisation was also going over its records.
“I don’t think any organisation can be complacent about their policies and processes,” Mr Ronalds said.
“We’ve gone back over all of our recent records of staff behaviour issues so far over the last three years here in Australia to make sure that we don’t have any cases of sexual harassment in the first place.
“And I am very please that at the moment we certainly haven’t had any cases in the last three years.”
In the UK, the scandal is deepening amid allegations one of the men at its centre was a known sexual predator in previous postings.
In Guatemala, the chairman of Oxfam International, Alberto Fuentes Knight — also formerly that country’s finance minister — was today detained as part of a corruption case.
English actress Minnie Driver also resigned her role as celebrity ambassador for Oxfam in the wake of the scandal.
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