The Department for International Development has been forced to reprimand staff in 14 cases of sexual harassment in just over 20 years, it was revealed yesterday.
The department’s permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft announced the conclusion of an internal review into sexual harassment and misconduct allegations involving DfID staff since 1995.
He said most of the 14 “closed cases” involved sexual harassment between staff members, while none were found to have involved paying for sex, sexual misconduct with under-18s or exploitation in exchange for aid.
They related to incidents both at home and abroad, and include complaints of inappropriate language and threatening behaviour.
Rycroft also said there were fewer than five cases that are open or have been newly reported to DfID relating to past events that the department is currently investigating.
Action was taken in all the cases in line with departmental policies at the time of the incidents – but DfID said none of them should have been passed to prosecutors.
The figures were revealed at the Safeguarding Summit for UK-based international development charities hosted by DfID and the Charity Commission in the wake of the Oxfam scandal fallout.
Over recent weeks it has emerged that a string of charities covered up sex scandals overseas and in Britain.
At the summit on 5 March, international development secretary Penny Mordaunt said the sector faced a “crucial moment” for reform.
Some 26 aid organisations have reported 80 current and historic cases of people being harmed or at risk of harm over the past three weeks, she said.
At the summit Rycroft outlined DfID’s response to the sexual harassment scandal, and said some of the department’s procedures have been tightened up and strengthened since several of the 14 cases occurred.
“To ensure that DfID now remains at the forefront of tackling exploitation and abuse, I instructed our new Safeguarding Unit, and DfID’s internal HR experts, to review urgently our own existing policy and procedures within the department,” he said.
This included reviewing its employment policies around selection, vetting and induction, performance management, training, and departure and references; its code of conduct and discipline policy; and its approach to learning and development.
“We are determined to hold ourselves to the high standards we expect of the sector,” Rycroft added.