When charity bosses start talking about their outfit as a ‘brand’, like tinned meatballs, alarm bells should tinkle.
When they jaw about ‘cross-organisational committees’ and ‘broader leadership teams’ and ‘safeguarding issues’ and hiring former senior policemen to make sure their staff are not abusing juniors, it may be evident this is no longer a simple good cause deserving of your loose change.
It has become a business, indistinguishable from other enterprises run by our blame-dodging, report-compiling, bureaucracy-bloating managerial elite.
Three top bods from Oxfam appeared in front of MPs yesterday to discuss the Haiti sex scandal in 2010, when workers allegedly entertained local prostitutes days after an earthquake in which 200,000 people died.
You thought your money was going on food and blankets? How quaintly old-fashioned.
Three top bods from Oxfam appeared in front of MPs yesterday to discuss the Haiti sex scandal in 2010, when workers allegedly entertained local prostitutes days after an earthquake in which 200,000 people died
Mark Goldring, Oxfam chief executive, had to cough up immediate regret for some high-handed indignation he expressed in a Guardian interview last week. In that interview he appeared to pooh-pooh the gravity of the scandal.
‘I was talking under stress,’ blurted a miserable Mr Goldring. ‘I should not have said those things.’ It was one of numerous apologies he made.
To his left, more serene, sat Oxfam’s chairman, Caroline Thomson, once a bigshot at the BBC (she might have become its director general had scandals there played out differently).
She kept well out of trouble yesterday, repeatedly stressing she only arrived at Oxfam last year.
Caroline Thomson, Chair of Trustees, Oxfam arriving to appear before the Commons Development Committee on the aid worker sex scandal
With a grandiose air she said she had commissioned a report on its governance.
To be important enough to commission reports? How delicious. While Mr Goldring was almost sobbing his sorrys, Miss Thomson remained utterly still, one superior, feline eyebrow arching its back.
She’s a piece of work, Thomson: office-political, her moist Queen’s English not quite disguising a pale-eyed corporatist calculator.
She didn’t get where she is today by interrupting colleagues who were digging their own holes.
Her husband is Labour peer and arch Europhile Lord Liddle.
I have never heard him declare, when he raves about Brussels, that Lady Liddle’s charity has received millions from the very EU he wants us not to leave.
Should he not do so?
On hapless Goldring’s other side sat Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International.
Less shrewd than Thomson, she kept trying to contribute, not least to remind us that she was from Uganda.
Winnie the human shield. MPs were little interested in her contributions. ‘Can I just say…?’ she would begin. ‘Noooo!’ cried the MPs. Goldring was the one they wanted to interrogate.
Oxfam’s response to the crisis was a classic of the elite. It was, basically, ‘make us more technocratic’.
Mr Goldring wanted aid workers to become minted as a ‘profession’ – ie on the same level as doctors or engineers.
Anyone working in foreign aid should have a ‘humanitarian passport’ which would only be granted to those who had complied to official standards of behaviour monitored by Parliament.
Such is the evaporation of our moral self-sufficiency. Oxfam workers are now being given a ‘code of conduct’ which bars them from visiting prostitutes (when abroad).
Mr Goldring wanted aid workers to become minted as a ‘profession’ – ie on the same level as doctors or engineers
Oxfam Chair of Trustees Caroline Thomson (right) and Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima (left) speaking at an evidence session as witnesses before the International Development Committee of members of parliament at Portcullis House in London
Do we really need a code of conduct to tell us bedding a harlot is wrong?
The committee was told that in future Oxfam would spend more millions of pounds on ‘safeguarding’ (i.e. on managerial systems that codify sackable offences and ringfence executive blame).
La Thomson put on a pair of tortoiseshell half-moon spectacles to aver that ‘secrecy is anathema to trust’.
Coming from such a veteran of the BBC politburo, that made me bark with laughter.
Elsewhere, the Culture select committee was scrutinising Lady Stowell, proposed new chairman of the Charity Commission.
MPs focused on her lack of experience running charities. Not a long-standing charities schmoozer? Tut tut.
But hang on. Might Lady Stowell’s lack of past involvement with this careerist ‘Third Sector’ not be an advantage? Might she not look at charities with the eye of a member of the public, rather than one of the gang?
A restoration of amateurs might be what we need.