DfID criticised over £132m award for aid charity amid sexual misconduct allegations

16 Jan 2019 News

The Department for International Development (DfID) has been criticised for giving a large amount of funding to an aid charity being investigated for sexual misconduct allegations.

Yesterday, The Times criticised DfID’s decision to award the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) £132m for a two-year programme that began in September last year while allegations against an employee were being investigated.

The newspaper accused the department of failing to live up to its pledge of “zero tolerance” for sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector made last year following the Oxfam scandal.

A spokesperson for the charity said a number of allegations were made against its Africa regional director last year by staff members in the regional office through its internal safeguarding mechanisms.

IPPF then commissioned an independent investigation by East African law firm, Anjarwalla and Khanna, which it said conducted a “thorough investigation” that concluded there were insufficient grounds to take disciplinary action against the regional director.

However, the investigation did uncover further information relating to a lack of management controls and oversight of a previously declared and investigated fraud within the regional office.

This led to a disciplinary process against the regional director and the termination of their contract at the end of November 2018.

An appeal of the regional director’s dismissal is ongoing, during which process the regional director will continue to have no active duties.

The spokesperson said the IPPF has been in regular contact with its donors and the Charity Commission throughout the process but that it would not be able to comment further while the appeal was ongoing.

Compliance case ongoing

The Charity Commission said the IPPF has made many serious incident reports to it over the past year or so related to incidents in the Africa office, including concerns about fraud and sexual harassment.

They said: “We are engaging with the charity on these matters as part of a regulatory compliance case and can’t comment further at this time.

“We have been engaging with the charity, on various issues it has reported to us, for over a year; our current regulatory compliance case opened this month, prompted in part by an update provided by the charity.”

They added that the opening of a regulatory compliance case is not in itself a finding of wrongdoing or mismanagement.

Meanwhile, a DfID spokesperson confirmed it was aware that an IPPF employee was being investigated but maintained that the department had “a zero-tolerance approach to fraud and corruption of any kind”.

They said: “We have been very clear that we will not tolerate practices which do not reach the highest standards.

“Where wrongdoing has been identified we expect our partners to take firm and immediate action.”

New procedures

The IPPF spokesperson also said the charity has undertaken “considerable work” over the past year to strengthen its safeguarding policies, procedures and systems.

They said: “This has included a comprehensive review of the federation’s existing policies, procedures and resources. As a result, new resources, policies and training are all being implemented.

“IPPF has a new safeguarding framework and has launched IPPF SafeReport, a confidential incident reporting service line for staff.

“IPPF is committed to safeguarding all who come into contact with it, including the people we serve, volunteers, employees, contractors and all workers.

“This includes safeguarding from any bullying or harassment at work. IPPF is committed to ensuring that its governance procedures help reinforce this vital work.”

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