Charity acts to restore its reputation
Oxfam has sacked three workers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo after an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, intimidation, nepotism and fraud.
The charity’s most senior official in the DRC, Corinne N’Daw, the country director, remains suspended while an investigation continues into claims of mismanagement and bullying against her.
N'Daw is understood to deny the allegations about her conduct.
Another aid worker has been told their contract will not be renewed after allegations were substantiated by an external inquiry.
After these latest allegations, Oxfam suspended two senior staff, and Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, withdrew the charity’s right to apply for UK aid funding.
It comes straight after government funding was restored following a three-year freeze in the aftermath of the Haiti scandal.
A 10-page letter written by concerned staff said they had been raising concerns since 2015 and had made “numerous detailed reports” to national and regional managers, and directly to Oxfam’s safeguarding team.
“Many Oxfam staff have lost faith in Oxfam’s promises of accountability and in the principles Oxfam says it stands for,” the letter stated. “We hope that the DRC does not become another example of Oxfam’s failure to prevent power abuses following the Haiti media exposé in 2018 and Oxfam’s explicit commitment to do better.”
Whistleblowers claimed that they had endured “threats to their lives and their families’ lives” and referred to “threats of poisonings or attempted poisonings”.
Oxfam said allegations of sexual misconduct were upheld against two of its aid workers while three people were found guilty of nepotism. Accusations of bullying and intimidation were upheld against one person and claims of “inappropriate relationships” were substantiated against one person.
Oxfam has operated in the DRC since 1961 and has 273 staff there.
Danny Sriskandarajah, Oxfam GB’s chief executive, apologised to “everyone who has been hurt by these abuses of power”. He added: “I hope the action we have taken demonstrates our resolve to tackle all forms of misconduct. Oxfam is committed to doing all we can to prevent abuses of power and to taking action where wrongdoing is found. We strongly encourage anyone who has concerns to report them.”
Oxfam said the Charity Commission and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office were being kept informed about its investigation.
The crisis in the DRC was a severe blow to the charity’s reputation as it was emerging from the shadow of the Haiti scandal. Women and girls in the DRC have reported multiple accounts of sexual misconduct by humanitarian staff to journalists in the past year.