Breaking: Oxfam to withdraw from DFID bidding 'until ministers satisfied' with reforms

Oxfam withdraws from future DFID funding until ministers are satisfied with reforms. Photo by: Oxfam Great Britain

LONDON — United Kingdom Secretary of State for International Development Penny Mordaunt has announced that Oxfam — one of U.K. aid’s top nonprofit delivery partners, receiving more than 30 million pounds from the government in 2016 — will withdraw from future funding until ministers are satisfied with reforms implemented in the wake of its sexual misconduct scandal.

“Following our discussions, Oxfam has agreed to withdraw from bidding for any new U.K. government funding until DFID is satisfied that they can meet the high standards we expect of our partners,” Mordaunt said.

Oxfam received just over 408 million pounds in total funding during the 2016-17 fiscal year, with U.K. government funding accounting for about 8 percent of the total, and a significant chunk of its funding from governments, according to Oxfam’s latest annual report.

Mordaunt said she made three demands following a meeting with Oxfam Great Britain’s head, Mark Goldring, and chair of trustees, Caroline Thomson, all three of which Goldring claims have now been met. The demands include outlining how Oxfam will handle future allegations of safeguarding violations; that Oxfam report staff involved in the 2011 Haiti incidents to their respective governments; and that they cooperate fully with Haitian authorities as they conduct investigations. Further reforms at the organization are ongoing.

Mordaunt also ordered all DFID partners to outline their safeguarding and reporting practices by Feb. 26. “At that stage, we will make further decisions about continuing or amending how those programmes are delivered,” she said.

Despite the suspension of bidding, Mordaunt noted that programs involving Oxfam as a delivery partner will continue to operate, emphasizing that DFID’s priority is “to deliver for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable, while keeping people safe from harm,” she said.

At the same time, Mordaunt praised the majority of Oxfam staff as “good, brave and compassionate people working for Oxfam around the world,” and that “they have been poorly served by Oxfam’s leadership team too.”

“Clearly Oxfam have a long way to go before they can regain the trust of the British public, their staff and the people they aim to help. The actions and attitude of the organisation over the coming weeks will be critical,” she said.

The news comes after Oxfam International’s Executive Director Winnie Byanyima told the BBC on Friday the organization will set up an independent commission to investigate allegations of exploitation, and examine Oxfam’s culture and practices. Other reforms promised include a tripling of the charity’s safeguarding budget, including doubling the number of staff on its safeguarding team. That follows criticisms from Oxfam’s former head of safeguarding, who said she was refused sufficient resources to tackle the scale of the problem within the organization.

Byanyima also proposed a global database of accredited referees, to prevent candidates from falsifying or skewing references. The promises build on a previously announced list of reforms that Oxfam says it will undertake in an effort to tackle the problem.

Additional reporting by Jessica Abrahams.

About the author

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    Molly Anders

    Molly Anders is a U.K. Correspondent for Devex. Based in London, she reports on development finance trends with a focus on British and European institutions. She is especially interested in evidence-based development and women’s economic empowerment, as well as innovative financing for the protection of migrants and refugees. Molly is a former Fulbright Scholar and studied Arabic in Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco.