Investigation launched after Priti Patel claims government ‘cover-up’ of charity sex abuse

Posted On: 
12th February 2018

Ministers will investigate claims made by Priti Patel that government officials ignored warnings over sex abuse by charity staff.

Former international development secretary Priti Patel has accused government officials of ignoring charity sex abuse claims

The former international development secretary said she flagged concerns about abuse in UN charities within the department last year but they were brushed aside.

Reports emerged over the weekend that Oxfam mishandled allegations of sexual misconduct by its staff in Haiti, where they were working in the aftermath of the huge earthquake that devastated the country in 2010.

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt told the BBC's Andrew Marr show that Oxfam had failed in its "moral leadership" over the scandal.

She added that funding could be withdrawn from the charity, which received £32m in government cash last year.

But in the aftermath of the revelations ex-Cabinet minister Ms Patel claimed that Whitehall officials had known about the abuse, telling BBC Radio 5 Live: “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.”

Writing in the Telegraph today, Ms Patel said that during her time as Secretary of State she had tried to ensure “accountability not just on aid effectiveness, but also the sexual abuse, not just of adults, but also the rape of children”.

She added: “I would like to say that I was supported and presented with facts from the department laying out the long history that UK governments, Labour and Conservative, had in tackling this global problem. 

“Sadly, I can’t. When I raised this issue in DFID, appalling it was dismissed as only a problem with UN Peacekeepers, which my subsequent investigations showed to be incorrect.”

Oxfam chief executive Mark Goldring is set to meet Ms Mordaunt today and the charity has announced new measures for the prevention and handling of sexual abuse cases ahead of the discussion.