Harry Yorke — Telegraph.co.uk Feb 11, 2018
The Government knew about a looming sexual abuse scandal within the aid sector involving 300 people, the former International Development Secretary has claimed as she accused charities of creating a “culture of denial”.
Amid fresh allegations over an alleged prostitution scandal embroiling Oxfam, Priti Patel claimed that instances of sexual abuse were “well documented”, adding that the disclosures were “just the tip of the iceberg”.
She said that although she had raised the issue with the Department for International Development while in office, there had been “no international leadership” on the issue.
It comes two days after Ms Patel called for a criminal investigation into Oxfam, telling this newspaper that the charity’s handling of the controversy had been “absolutely scandalous”.
Speaking to the BBC’s John Pienaar, Ms Patel said: “I knew this was going on… I made this our own agenda, I did my research, this [sex abuse] is well documented. The tragedy is there has been no international leadership on this whatever.”
“People knew in DFID, I raised this directly with my department at the time…. The UN said last year there were 120 cases involving 300 people – and that is just the tip of the iceberg”
“There is a culture of denial [of sexual abuse] in the aid sector… my former Department did not raise this with me, I raised it with them”
“There are no databases of these predatory paedophiles that exist and we need them … to stop this disgusting and corrosive culture of the revolving door in aid agencies.”
Ms Patel’s comment came as her successor, Penny Mordaunt, suggested that “predatory” individuals may be targeting disaster charities in order to prey on vulnerable people.
Ahead of a showdown with the charity’s leaders on Monday, Penny Mordaunt has warned the charity that it faces having its funding withdrawn if it fails to cooperate over an alleged cover-up of a prostitution scandal.
Describing reports of aid workers using prostitutes while working in disaster-stricken Haiti as a “betrayal”, Ms Mordaunt said the decision not to hand over evidence to the authorities was an “absolute absence of leadership”.
She told the BBC’s Andrew Marr: “I think it’s shocking and it doesn’t matter how good the safeguarding practices are in an organisation, if that organisation does not have the moral leadership to do the right thing, and wherein particular they have evidence of criminal activity to pass that information to the relevant authorities including prosecuting authorities, that’s an absolute absence of leadership.”
Asked whether Oxfam had failed in its moral leadership, she replied: “Yes, I do.”
Amid reports of similar incidents taking place in other charities, Ms Mordaunt she that the entire sector needed to address the problem.