Oxfam scandal: Deputy chief Penny Lawrence quits €100k job

Roland Van Hauwermeiren, a Belgian humanitarian aid worker and former head of Oxfam office in Haiti, is at the heart of a sexual scandal which has affected the NGO for a week.

The accusations Mr. van Hauwermeiren has been facing have just begun, as it’s just over one week since The Times revealed that former Oxfam employees had sex with prostitutes while deployed for humanitarian efforts during the aftermath of the earthquake which took place in Haiti 2010.

Roland van Hauwermeiren has been subject to a media frenzy as he used to be a high-level employee of the famous NGO Oxfam until recent. He was required to travel and work in several countries like Liberia in 2004 and in Haiti in 2010 after the country was destroyed by the natural disaster.

Roland van Hauwermeiren resigned from Oxfam in 2011.

After the Times published its investigation on the use of prostitutes by some Oxfam employees, and Roland van Hauwermeiren’s use when operating there, the 68 years-old man has since denied these allegations. In a 4-page letter VTM Nieuws made public last week, Mr Van Hauwermeiren stated he had “never entered a brothel, a discotheque or a bar” in Haiti. “There were many attempts from men and women to enter my home with many excuses to ask for money, demand a job or offer sexual services. I never accepted their proposals”, he added. Although he admitted he had sex with a woman in Haiti, he advocated she was “honorable and mature”, and he stated “I never gave her money”.

Due to the allegations Oxfam has been facing, the NGO published a 2011 internal report on Monday, in which Mr. van Hauwermeiren’s statements are clearly jeopardized.

In this report, the former head of mission admitted he paid for sexual relations with prostitutes in Oxfam’s foreign headquarters. Although the report could not conclude on the use of minor prostitutes, “it could not be excluded that at least one of the prostitutes was minor”. The authors added that three employees had “physically threatened” a colleague that was going to testify with the allegations.

As the investigation continues, Roland van Hauwermeiren and Oxfam will likely face more questions as The Times also revealed last week that Mr. van Hauwermeiren was subject to a complaint for sexual abuse when he was operating in Liberia in 2004. Action contre la faim, another NGO in which Mr. van Hauwermeiren was enrolled after he left Oxfam, deplored it was not informed about these allegations earlier.

“I am ashamed this happened on my watch and I take full responsibility.” says Penny Lawrence

Oxfam’s scandal has begun to take it’s toll on the company, with the deputy general director, Penny Lawrence, resigning last Monday, 12 February. Mark Goldring, Executive Director of Oxfam Great Britain, however, refused to leave his position, except if the board requires it, and some governments like the UK are contemplating cutting their funding too.

“I am ashamed this happened on my watch and I take full responsibility.” says Penny Lawrence