Oxfam's deputy chief executive resigns in Haiti scandal

FILE - This is a Nov. 30, 2017 file photo of Britain's International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt. Oxfam’s deputy chief executive Monday Feb. 12, 2018 resigned amid the scandal involving sex abuse in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Penny Lawrence says she’s ashamed of what happened on her watch. Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt is demanding that Oxfam show moral accountability and provide full disclosure about the case. She has threatened to pull public funding unless the charity reveals everything it knows about allegations. (Nick Ansell/PA File via AP)
FILE: _ This is a May 21, 2015 file photo of an Oxfam store in London. Oxfam’s deputy chief executive on Monday Feb. 12, 2018 resigned amid the scandal involving sex abuse in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Penny Lawrence says she’s ashamed of what happened on her watch. Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt is demanding that Oxfam show moral accountability and provide full disclosure about the case. She has threatened to pull public funding unless the charity reveals everything it knows about allegations. (Nick Ansell/PA via AP, file)

LONDON — Oxfam's deputy chief executive resigned Monday, saying she took "full responsibility" for failing to act immediately in the sexual misconduct scandal involving the charity's workers in Haiti following the 2010 earthquake.

Penny Lawrence, Oxfam program director at the time, said she was "ashamed that this happened on my watch."

At an emergency meeting Monday with British government officials, Oxfam's leaders "also made a full and unqualified apology" and spoke of a "deep sense of disgrace and shame," said British Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt.

Oxfam chief executive Mark Goldring and trustee chairwoman Caroline Thomson were at the meeting. Mordaunt had threatened to pull public funding from Oxfam unless the charity revealed everything it knows about the Haiti allegations.

Still, it's unclear whether the resignation and the apology will quell the scandal, which first emerged when the Times of London reported last week that seven former Oxfam staff members who worked in Haiti faced misconduct allegations that included using prostitutes and downloading pornography.

Oxfam says it investigated the allegations in 2011 and then fired four people and let three others resign after uncovering sexual misconduct, bullying, intimidation and failure to protect staff.

Lawrence said Monday that the allegations of sexual misconduct were first raised about some Oxfam staff in an earlier mission in Chad.

"It is now clear that these allegations — involving the use of prostitutes and which related to behavior of both the country director and members of his team in Chad — were raised before he moved to Haiti," she said.

Mordaunt said the charity had agreed to provide full details about the perpetrators to their home countries so they can face possible prosecution.

"I told Oxfam they must now demonstrate the moral leadership necessary to address this scandal, rebuild the trust of the British public, their staff and the people they aim to help," she said, describing the sexual abuses as "utterly despicable."

Mordaunt said she had written to all U.K. charities that work overseas to demand they do more to protect vulnerable people from abuse.

Earlier Monday, the European Commission demanded that Oxfam offer maximum transparency in responding to the allegations about Haiti.

"We are ready to review and, if needed, cease funding to any partner who is not living up to the required high ethical standards," said European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic.

___

Gregory Katz in London and Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed to this story.

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