Learning from others’ mistakes Part 2 – Oxfam

If yesterday’s post regarding the CPA Australia Independent Review is considered Part 1 of a series about what we can learn from troubles experienced by not-for-profit organisations, then the Oxfam scandal can be considered Part 2.

The UK Charity Commission has launched a statutory inquiry into “allegations of misconduct by staff involved in its humanitarian response in Haiti. The Commission has concerns that Oxfam may not have fully and frankly disclosed material details about the allegations at the time in 2011, its handling of the incidents since, and the impact that these have both had on public trust and confidence“.

In the meantime, the Haitian Government has also announced that it intends to launch a “wide-reaching investigation into charities operating there”.  Oxfam’s failure to notify Haitian authorities at the time of the alleged misconduct was of great concern to them.  Haiti’s planning and external cooperation minister, Aviol Fleurant said the government wanted all charities operating in Haiti to reveal more about sexual misconduct by their missions in the country.

Oxfam has only now released an internal report on its 2011 investigation into the alleged misbehaviour of its staff in Haiti.  Doubtless, the UK Charity Commission will be asking the Oxfam Board why it took so long to make the report public.  The report of the Commission’s Inquiry, once it has been completed, will become mandatory reading for all not-for-profit Audit and Risk Committees.

As noted by ACNC Assistant Commissioner David Locke at last night’s AICD NFP Directors’ Briefing about the ACNC Review, news about any single charity or association impacts on all parts of the organisation, and indeed can damage public trust in other similar organisations.  Consequently, all NFP directors need to pay close attention to the lessons from others’ mistakes, and make changes to structures, policies, and procedures to avoid similar errors.

Call to action

If your Board or Audit and Risk Committee would like a briefing on the implications of the Oxfam Inquiry and/or the CPA Australia Independent Review for your organisation, please contact me on 0419 347 599  or email me at garry.pearson@polgovpro.com.au to arrange this.

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