This morning I have put the questions below to OXFAM’s media team and I shall publish their response here when I receive it.
1) OXFAM is a member of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC). What if anything did the other members of that organisation know about the allegations concerning the work of some members of OXFAM’s team in Haiti, and allegations concerning the wider OXFAM operation, such as the shops in the UK as reported today?
2) OXFAM says it issued a press statement in September 2011 concerning the original Haiti allegations. Where is this statement and what did it say?
RESPONSE: Link to 2011 press statement.
3) OXFAM says it was given advice in 2011 that it would be counterproductive given the situation in Haiti at the time to report the allegations to the police. With the passage of time, the situation in Haiti has improved and OXFAM has apologised for what went on. Therefor, what steps have they taken to report these historical allegations to the police now?
4) OXFAM has apologised several times and its Deputy Chief Executive has resigned, stating that she takes ‘full responsibility’ for what happened. What, specifically, are they apologising for? What, specific responsibility is she taking? The organisation has apologised ‘to supporters, and the people of Britain and Haiti’ for a ‘moral failure’ ‘appalling behaviour of some staff’ and the organisation’s failure to deal with it properly. You can’t go to the police and accuse someone of ‘behaving appallingly’, they need to know specifically what you think happened. When you’re 7 years old, you can’t go to your parents and say ‘I’ve been really bad’ and expect to make amends, you have to tell them exactly what you did. And I’m still waiting for this detail from Oxfam.
5) Answering these questions would in no way compromise the investigation organised by the UK charity regulator. It is more than capable of finding and evaluating evidence and reaching conclusions on its own and OXFAM answering the questions above, to the public, now, will have no impact on that investigation and I would not accept OXFAM using this situation as a reason not to answer the questions.
6) These allegations involve a very small number of OXFAM staff and workers world-wide. It is a tragedy that so much hard work and commitment and so many people are now distressed and let down because of a tiny proportion of colleagues. Not to mention those on the receiving end of this behaviour. It’s easy to dismiss this (as was the case at the BBC, News of the World, Catholic Church and other organisations where things have gone wrong) as the actions of ‘a few bad people’. In my view, things like this are more likely to happen where these is a pervading sense of entitlement and there is evidence of that throughout the wider organisation and in other areas of the sector in general. Anytime where you have individuals, or in this case a charity, considering itself to be ‘a brand’ you are in dangerous territory in my opinion.
7) OXFAM should consider outsourcing its existing work to other charity partners and concentrating on getting its own house in order. They cannot and should not even attempt to ‘control’ or ‘manage’ this crisis. New procedures are all very well but they had existing procedures which clearly haven’t worked. It’s not for OXFAM to decide what happens next with this. They need to stop what they’re doing and fix things. That should probably begin with a meeting with the relevant authorities in Britain and Haiti. OXFAM does and has done some tremendous work but it has no divine right to exist. The world would carry on just fine without OXFAM and the leadership of the organisation need to understand that and take what steps are necessary to involve other organisations in their work, while they deal with this situation.
8) When someone resigns, taking full responsibility for what happened, why are they being thanked on their way out the door? Are they being thanked for their service, or thanked for taking responsibility? And if they’re being thanked for ‘taking’ responsibility, then with whom did the responsibility lie originally? It doesn’t automatically follow that the individual who ‘takes’ responsibility was ultimately responsible. OXFAM needs to provide some clarity around this.