Oxfam has defended its handling of a sex workers scandal after allegations that staff hired prostitutes during their work in Haiti following the devastating 2010 earthquake.
Alleged misconduct by former Oxfam staff members included the use of prostitutes, downloading pornography, bullying and intimidation, according to an investigation by The Times.
Oxfam chief executive Mark Goldring apologised on Saturday, saying he was “deeply ashamed of Oxfam’s behaviour”.
He added: “Everybody – the 25,000 staff and volunteers – are compromised by this, the hundreds of thousands of people who support Oxfam every month are compromised by this, and to everybody I apologise.
“What I’m apologising for is that nine Oxfam staff behaved in a way that was totally unacceptable and contrary to our values, and that led much more responsible staff to make decisions which are now seen by some as being marginal or inappropriate.
“But I’m not apologising for the fact that Oxfam continued its work in Haiti.”
Estimates vary but around 220,000 people were killed in the Haiti disaster and millions left homeless in a country where more than half of the population live in poverty.
Prostitution is illegal in Haiti.
Mr Goldring added: “There is not a single organisation in which there has not been sexual abuse and exploitation and Oxfam is certainly no worse than most other international organisations and actually has tried in many ways to be better.”
The charity said it investigated the allegations in 2011 and perpetrators were all sacked or resigned.
However, some went on to senior roles at other charities tha were not informed of their reasons for leaving Oxfam, it was reported.
Mr Goldring added that a safeguarding team had been set up to improve the quality of reporting investigations, as well as a “whistle-blowing line”.
He added: “If we can be part of helping with references or cross-checking then we’ll play an active part in that because I’ve seen the amazing work that Oxfam is doing in the Congo, Syria, in Bangladesh, Yemen, in places other people simple won’t go.
“I want to protect and preserve that.”
There had been other incidents since 2011, he said, but “nothing on the scale of this severity”.
Mr Goldring’s words come after the Department for International Development said late Friday that the charity had shown a “lack of judgement” in its investigations following the 2010/11 incidents.
“The International Development Secretary is reviewing our current work with Oxfam and has requested a meeting with the senior team at the earliest opportunity,” a DFID spokeswoman said.