PORT AU PRINCE: Oxfam faced fresh allegations of sexual misconduct by staff in Haiti, with a report on Saturday claiming the charity kept a senior aid worker in the earthquake-hit country for over a year despite harassment claims.
The British-based charity attempted to “contain” sexual harassment allegations involving Raphael Mutiku, who led Oxfam’s installation of water supplies after the 2010 earthquake, according to an internal report seen by The Times newspaper. The documents claim to show a final written warning was issued to Mutiku, a Kenyan in his 40s, in June 2010, following accusations of sexual harassment from female colleagues.
However, six months later when it was alleged that the engineer was paying young women for sex at his Oxfam accommodation, his manager at the aid agency’s UK headquarters is reported to have said he hoped the charity could “contain this” and it seemed Mutiku was “not being discreet”.
Oxfam has confirmed the decision not to dismiss Mutiku was made by Roland van Hauwermeiren – the then country director who was recently at the heart of the aid worker sex scandal. The Times said Mutiku had “strenuously” denied paying prostitutes. He was sacked in 2011 following an internal investigation.
“The behaviour of some former Oxfam staff working in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake was completely unacceptable,” an Oxfam spokeswoman said in a statement.
“We are very sorry for what happened.”
The statement said the decision “not to sack Raphael Mutiku in 2010 was wrong,” and Van Hauwermeiren “was himself guilty of sexual misconduct. His decision making was therefore compromised”.
Oxfam said it had since introduced a confidential whistleblowing hotline and had this week announced new standards to improve referencing, and had appointed the co-chairs of an independent commission reviewing its culture and practices.
“We are committed to continue to do all we can to help the millions of people every year affected by humanitarian disasters and to improve the lives of those living in poverty,” the spokeswoman said.
Made public last month, Oxfam’s 2011 report into the behaviour of aid workers sent to Haiti following the earthquake revealed that Van Hauwermeiren admitted to paying for sex and that three staff physically threatened a witness.
Four staff were fired for gross misconduct and three others, including Van Hauwermeiren, were allowed to quit.