What are our donations really being spent on?

By Nigel Hastilow | In-depth | Published:

There is nothing more loathsome than charity workers demanding sex from the very people they are paid to help.

The scandal of Oxfam’s top brass enjoying sex parties with young women in Haiti after a disaster that killed 220,000 people is as shocking as it is repugnant.

Oxfam has built its reputation by claiming the moral high ground at every opportunity – the organisation has the gall to complain about poverty in Britain when it is supposed to be helping those who are truly suffering in some of the most impoverished corners of the world. And yet here it is, exposed at last for covering up a squalid, sordid scandal and allowing overpaid employees to walk away without a stain on their reputations.

Worse even than the events in Haiti is the news that this was by no means a single, isolated incident involving a few rotten apples. It seems Oxfam’s employees have been doing their worst the world over.

Last year the Charities Commission received 1,000 reports relating to the safeguarding of vulnerable people and sexual abuse.

Helen Evans, Oxfam’s global head of safeguarding, personally took three cases to the Commission after her employers ignored her concerns. She was worried about the sexual abuse of staff by more senior employees. It didn’t seem to occur to her some of Oxfam’s top brass might be exploiting human misery in just about the worst way possible.

Yet Priti Patel, the former International Development Secretary, now says she raised concerns during her time in the Cabinet and was told by her civil servants not to make a fuss. They said some United Nations peacekeeping troops had been guilty of sexually abusing the people they were supposed to protect but the idea that charity workers might be similarly guilty was going too far. This scandal, though, highlights just how much of a law unto themselves charities like Oxfam – and several others – have become.

They are multi-million pound organisations which pay their staff very generously and rely on public money to keep the show on the road.

But they are answerable to no-one. Indeed, they enjoy a cloak of respectability simply because they call themselves charities and claim their work is humanitarian. Who are we to question the good works and good intentions of these paragons of virtue, especially when they lecture us about our selfish lifestyles and demand conscience-money with menaces?


As a result, Oxfam and the like are unquestioningly trusted by supporters, volunteers and the civil servants responsible for channelling millions of pounds in their direction.

Yet when you ask what happened to the £10 billion donated to help the victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, it turns out most of it was frittered away – some of it on sex parties. There isn’t much to show for the worldwide response to the disaster – Haiti is still a wreck with few new homes and even less hope.

For years we have placed our trust in Oxfam and a range of other NGOs (that is to say, Non-Governmental Organisations which rush in to every disaster zone and supposedly dispense aid and support.

Collectively, NGOs now administer vast sums of money running into hundreds of billions of pounds a year. They are vast and hugely influential, capable of ordering about Governments and bodies like the UN because of their cloak of charitable respectability.


That cloak has now been ripped away and it is reasonable to assume Oxfam is not the only organisation which has made every effort to suppress scandal and avoid washing its dirty linen in public. Which makes you wonder why on earth our Government – in a wheeze of David Cameron’s aimed at ingratiating himself with the ‘Guardian’-reading classes – persists in throwing money away on overseas aid.

Immediate grants to Oxfam may well be in danger - and rightly so - but the bigger issue is why we are spending £13bn a year on international aid. Everyone knows for certain – including the Ministers responsible – that much of it is wasted. Even if it isn’t paying for charity workers to turn young girls into prostitutes, it’s used to line the pockets of tyrants and criminals or it’s spent in countries like China and India which really do not need anyone’s charity.

We used to trust charities. We still like to think that when we make a donation or buy a raffle ticket, we are giving to a worthwhile cause.

But these NGOs are run by executives on salaries way higher than the Prime Minister’s. They have highly-effective propaganda arms to brainwash us into thinking the best of them. And they also have massive sums of money in reserve which they don’t even need.

The Oxfam sex scandal gives Penny Mordaunt, the International Development Secretary, an opportunity to down-size these disgusting leeches and force them to behave with the modesty and responsibility of the truly charitable instead of living like pimps off immoral earnings.

Nigel Hastilow

By Nigel Hastilow

Express & Star columnist


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