A former country director at the centre of the Oxfam scandal has apologised for his behaviour but denied some allegations made against him and the charity’s other workers.
Roland van Hauwermeiren, the Oxfam country director in Haiti who resigned in 2011 over the charity’s sexual misconduct investigation, was on the cover of The Times last Friday when the story broke.
According to The Times, van Hauwermeiren admitted that prostitutes had visited his villa and was allowed to resign in return for co-operating with the investigation. Two others resigned and four were dismissed as part of the investigation.
Yesterday, van Hauwermeiren broke his silence by issuing an open letter to Belgian broadcaster VTM giving his versions of the events.
According to a translation, he denies ever visiting “a brothel, nightclub, or bar” in Haiti or using prostitutes but admits he had “intimate contact” on three occasions with a “grown, honourable lady, not a victim of the earthquake”.
He says: “I am not perfect. I am not a saint. A man of flesh and blood, and I made mistakes (not easy to admit). And I am deeply ashamed.”
He adds: “There were also many attempts by men and women to enter my house trying to ask for money for a variety of fake reasons, to ask for a job, or to offer sexual services… I never accepted their advanced.”
Van Hauwermeiren says he resigned after an “investigation group” visited him in Haiti in May or June 2011.
He says he resigned because:
- “I indeed should have acted harder and faster when rumours arose. I think then and now that it was a lack of leadership from my side.
- “Because of the relationship with that lady I helped to fuel the rumours that I was involved in these scandals (meaning the parties or prostitutes visits). As director I should have given the example and I had compromised the organisation and myself.
- “I already had a running dispute with Oxfam because of technical issues, and the above made the facts spill out.”
Van Hauwemeiren also says he has been informed that The Times’ whistleblower was a British colleague of his in Liberia, fired by him for “alcohol abuse and misconduct against staff”.
Meanwhile, The Daily Mail yesterday reported further accusations of inappropriate behaviour against van Hauwemeiren involving an anonymous former sex worker in Haiti.
Other charity roles
It emerged earlier this week that van Hauwermeiren, had previously been pushed out of a job at Merlin, now part of Save the Children, and that after leaving Oxfam had gone on to work for Action Against Hunger between 2012 and 2014.
In a statement, Action Against Hunger said it had not received any information about van Hauwermeiren or “warning on the risks of employing him”. It has now “begun a process to closely scrutinise the time he was employed by us, and Action Against Hunger commits to full disclosure, collaborating in full with the authorities.”