Oxfam will be barred from applying for public funding while the latest abuse allegations against the charity are investigated, the government has announced.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said that the allegations had “called into question” Oxfam’s ability to meet safeguarding standards required to receive government funds.
Last week the charity said it had suspended two members of staff working in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), after complaints of corruption and intimidation.
Oxfam said it was seeking further information from the FCDO about its announcement.
The decision came just weeks after the charity was cleared to receive FCDO funding again, following an earlier ban related to abuse claims which emerged in 2018.
No funding ‘until the issues have been resolved’
An FCDO spokesperson said: “All organisations bidding for UK aid must meet the high standards of safeguarding required to keep the people they work with safe.
“Given the most recent reports which call into question Oxfam’s ability to meet those standards, we will not consider any new funding to Oxfam until the issues have been resolved.”
No date has been given for when the ban may be lifted.
Oxfam lost around 7,000 regular donors in the aftermath of the Haiti scandal.
An Oxfam spokesperson said: “The steps we are taking in the Democratic Republic of Congo reflect our commitment to tackle abuses of power.
“We are aware of the FCDO statement and are seeking further information.
“The Charity Commission and FCDO have been notified appropriately and we will continue to keep them informed as the investigation concludes its work.”
Oxfam staff told The Times newspaper last week that they fear there is a “culture of bullying and impunity” in the charity’s work in DRC.
The charity started an investigation into the allegations in November, amid claims that managers had first been warned about problems in the country five years ago.
The Times also reported that inspectors from the Humanitarian Quality Assurance Initiative (HQAI) had been working with Oxfam to address safeguarding concerns in the DRC since May 2019.
HQAI concluded at the time that Oxfam had “taken appropriate steps to establish a robust safeguarding system to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment in the DRC Oxfam offices and programmes”.
The Charity Commission lifted strict monitoring of Oxfam last month after a three-year investigation into the charity’s safeguarding work, and said it had made “significant strides” improving policy and practice.
The Commission also told parliament last year: “If charities cannot keep people safe then they should not be in receipt of overseas aid.”