Priti Patel: DfID officials knew about sexual abuse allegations among charity staff

Posted On: 
11th February 2018

Priti Patel has said allegations against Oxfam staff are only the "tip of the iceberg" of a global aid scandal that she raised with officials when she was Development Secretary.

Priti Patel said the Oxfam revelations were "the tip of the iceberg" in terms of sexual abuse in the charity sector.
Credit: 
PA

The ex-Cabinet minister, who resigned from her past last year, said she had flagged concerns about sex abuse in UN charities with officials at the Department for International Development.

While she had not been aware of any allegations against Oxfam during her time in DfID, she said sex abuse by charity staff was not a new problem.

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“I spoke to people who have worked within the aid sector who have been whistleblowers. This is well documented, going back to the peace-keeping issues," she told BBC Radio 5 Live's Pienaar's Politics.

“Even the United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, and the former secretary general, Kofi Annan, have all publicly spoken about this. The tragedy is there has been no international leadership about this."

The backbench MP, who was forced to resign after it emerged she had taken unofficial meetings with Israeli diplomats and businessmen while on holiday, said Dfid officials were aware of allegations of widespread sexual abuse.

“People knew in Dfid. I raised this directly with my department at the time. I have UN reports...there are 120 cases involving something like over 300 people. That was just the tip of the iceberg.”

She blamed the lack of political will for the international community’s failure to deal with the problem.

“My former department did not raise this issue with me. I raised it with them through my own investigations and my own research. I challenged them - that is the job of ministers, to challenge your officials.”

Ms Patel said she had used data from UN reports on sex abuse in the charity sector and the Government had still gone ahead with funding.

“We, the British government made a series of recommendations to the UN and NGOs, in terms of steps we should take, including holding back funds, putting in performance agreements and criteria, looking for independent whistleblowing mechanisms, calling for prosecutions, calling for databases.

“There are no databases for these predatory paedophiles that exist. I think the UN should hold these databases and put them in the public domain so law enforcement agencies can see who is out there.”