The government of Haiti has announced that it will suspend Oxfam GB’s right to operate in the country for two months, while it investigates the charity’s handling of the inappropriate behaviour by staff in the country in 2011.
Oxfam said it expects the suspension to “have a significant impact on its work” but it will continue working on reconstruction and development projects in Haiti through its affiliate organisations, Oxfam Italy, Oxfam Intermón (Spain) and Oxfam Quebec.
The charity’s overall annual programme budget in Haiti is €13m, about a quarter of which, €3.2m, goes through Oxfam GB.
Oxfam International regional director Simon Ticehurst and Oxfam Intermon executive affiliate unit head Margalida Massot met Haitian government officials yesterday and committed to cooperate with the government’s investigation.
According to reports by Reuters, Haiti’s planning and external cooperation minister Aviol Fleurant said: “If during the two month-long investigation I find out there is a link between the aid funds that Oxfam received on behalf of Haiti and the crime that has been committed, we will ... declare Oxfam Great Britain persona non grata and they would have to leave the country without further delay.”
Oxfam has already temporarily withdrawn from applying for any new UK government funding. According to the charity's accounts for the year ending 31 May 2017, it received £31.7m worth of funding from the Department for International Development (DfID).
DfID has said that it will decide after 26 February whether to review the work Oxfam is currently being contracted by the government to do.
The charity has apologised to the Haitian government and people for abuses by former staff that occurred in 2011.
Speaking before the International Development Committee this week, chief executive Mark Goldring told MPs: “I am sorry, we are sorry, for the damage that Oxfam has done, both to the people of Haiti but also to wider efforts for aid and development by possibly undermining public support.”
He also apologised over Oxfam’s initial communication with the Charity Commission. The Commission has said that if it had received more information in 2011 it would have acted differently.