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Oxfam funding delayed amid fresh sexual exploitation claims

Oxfam has been temporarily stopped from receiving UK aid funds just weeks after a three-year Government ban was lifted, amid fresh allegations of sexual misconduct by staff. Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, last night confirmed he was delaying the resumption of funding after two senior aid workers in the Democratic Republic of Congo were suspended last week. The charity was previously blocked from bidding for UK funds in the wake of the 2018 aid scandal in Haiti, when it was accused of covering up allegations of sexual exploitation by some of its workers based in the country after the 2010 earthquake. The disclosure led to further claims against other UK-aid organisations. Oxfam apologised in the wake of the scandal and in February was said to have undertaken significant reforms by the Charity Commission, paving the way for it begin bidding for aid funding again. However, last week it was rocked by fresh allegations, revealed by The Times, which included claims of sexual exploitation, bullying and mismanagement in the DRC. Confirming that funding would be paused again, a Foreign Office spokesman said: “All organisations bidding for UK aid must meet the high standards of safeguarding required to keep the people they work with safe. “Given the most recent reports which call into question Oxfam’s ability to meet those standards, we will not consider any new funding to Oxfam until the issues have been resolved.” Whitehall sources stressed the pause was not a full-blown suspension, adding that ministers were awaiting further updates on the latest allegations. Oxfam has not resumed bidding for funds again. It follows 24 hours after ministers vowed to withdraw funding from aid charities that failed to meet its safeguarding standards in response to a damning Parliamentary inquiry into sexual abuse int he sector. In a report released last December, the Commons international development committee warned that the issue remained “a scourge” on the international development sector, which had “effectively become the last safe haven for perpetrators”. Sarah Champion, the chair of the committee, told The Telegraph: “Safeguarding needs to be hard wired into all aid projects due to the inherent vulnerability of recipients. I urge the FCDO to proactively look at all aid organisations in receipt of taxpayers’ funds and make sure preventing abuse is at their core.” Oxfam commissioned an external investigation into its DRC office last November but staff are said to have raised concern over the length of the probe. Whistleblowers are reported to have issued “numerous detailed reports” about the situation to national and regional managers and directly to Oxfam’s leadership and safeguarding teams in Oxford. On Tuesday night an Oxfam spokesman said: “The steps we are taking in the Democratic Republic of Congo reflect our commitment to tackle abuses of power. We are aware of the FCDO statement and are seeking further information. The Charity Commission and FCDO have been notified appropriately and we will continue to keep them informed as the investigation concludes its work.”

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