Stocking speaking at the World Economic Forum in January 2012, a year before the Haiti earthquake Wikimedia Commons/WEF

Murray Edwards College has defended its president after she was accused of covering up the fact that senior Oxfam staff exploited young women for sex in the wake of the Haiti earthquake.

According to an investigation in The Times, Dame Barbara Stocking, 66, who was CEO of Oxfam at the time, offered the country director, Roland van Hauwermeiren, “a phased and dignified exit” because sacking him would have “potentially serious implications” for the charity’s work and reputation”.

Van Hauwermeiren, 68, admitted using an Oxfam-funded villa to host prostitutes in the wake of the natural disaster in January 2010, which killed hundreds of thousands of people.

Some sources also claimed that some women involved were under the legal age of consent, which is 18 in Haiti.

The charity’s inquiry into sexual misconduct from 2011, which investigated sexual exploitation, the downloading of pornography, and bullying and intimidation, led to the sacking of four men and saw three others allowed to resign after actions which the inquiry said were symptomatic of “a culture of impunity” among aid workers in Haiti.

Prostitution is illegal in the country, and paying for sex is in breach of both Oxfam’s code of conduct and UN regulations for aid workers. Oxfam has admitted that no criminal reports were made to the Haitian authorities because “it was extremely unlikely that any action would be taken”.

The government has today demanded that Oxfam hand over the files relating to the inquiry. The culture secretary, Matt Hancock, told The Times: “Charities must ensure that they have the highest standards of transparency and safeguarding procedures in place to protect vulnerable people and maintain the trust of the public.”

In a statement to Varsity, Murray Edwards said that they believed the cover-up allegation was “untrue” and that the Charity Commission was alerted to the incident at the time. However, the regulatory body told The Times yesterday that it never received the Oxfam inquiry’s final report, and that Oxfam “did not detail the precise allegations, nor did it make any indication of potential sexual crimes involving minors”.

In a statement released today, the Charity Commission said: “In August 2011, Oxfam made a report to the Commission about an ongoing internal investigation into allegations of misconduct by staff members involved in their Haiti programme.

“At the time, and based on the information provided, we were satisfied that the trustees were handling matters appropriately and did not have regulatory concerns.”

“We will expect the charity to provide us with assurance that it has learnt lessons from past incidents.”

In an email to Varsity, a spokesperson for Murray Edwards said: “The College believes that the allegation that Barbara Stocking ‘covered-up’ the use of prostitutes by senior Oxfam staff in Haiti is untrue.


READ MORE

Mountain View

Nearly a third of Murray Edwards undergrads back petition calling for rent cuts

“Oxfam GB, of which Barbara Stocking was CEO at the time, issued a press release to announce the beginning of the investigation and, subsequently, the outcome of the investigation, both locally in Haiti and internationally. The incident was reported to the appropriate bodies, including the Charities [sic] Commission.

“We have full confidence that this matter was dealt with appropriately at the time, and it has no relevance whatsoever for Barbara Stocking’s current role as President of Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge. She has the College’s full support.”

Responding to the case, the CUSU Women’s Campaign said: “Time and time again, we see how abuse is embedded into every single aspect of our society, concealed and aided by the those in power. It is always the most vulnerable women and girls who are subjected to this kind of violence - here in the name of ‘charity.’”

Stocking, who is an alumna of Murray Edwards (formerly New Hall), led Oxfam for almost 12 years before becoming president of the College in 2013.

Update, 18:30 9/2/18: This article was updated to include today's statement from the Charity Commission.

Sponsored links