Six people sacked from BBC charity for sexual misconduct over past 10 years

A BBC charity which was given millions of pounds of taxpayers' money has sacked six people for sexual misconduct over the past 10 years, it has been revealed.

BBC Media Action, the corporation's international development charity, said it had dismissed six people "for sexual harassment or for watching pornography on work computers".

The Department for International Development (DfID), which has contributed £70 million to the charity over the past five years, said it had no record of any sexual misconduct allegations at the charity.

However it is understood that, under the charity's rules, not all of the cases would have required reporting to the Government.

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It comes as the aid sector continues to be closely scrutinised after Oxfam was accused of concealing the findings of an inquiry into claims staff used prostitutes while delivering aid in Haiti in 2011.

DfID had asked all UK charities working overseas, including BBC Media Action, to provide assurances about its safeguarding and disciplinary policies by Monday this week.

A spokesman for BBC Media Action said: "Values of trust and respect are central to BBC Media Action's ethos and we expect everyone to demonstrate them in all they do.

"We will - and do - take action through our well-established disciplinary processes if staff behave inappropriately.

"The overwhelming majority of our staff deliver their work every day across 14 countries with the utmost integrity. Equally we have to be open and honest if anything does go wrong.

"We have reviewed all cases in the last ten years involving or potentially involving sexual misconduct. Six such cases have been identified over this period, all of which were investigated."

In two of the cases, no grounds were found to take any disciplinary action.

Formal action was taken in the remaining four cases, with six people sacked. The charity says none of the cases involved beneficiaries and that it is not aware of any child protection issues.

The spokesman added: "Our staff have been reminded of our safeguarding, child protection and whistle-blowing policies and procedures, and their responsibility to follow our Code of Conduct.

"We will continue to examine our policies and processes around safeguarding and whistleblowing - and take action to strengthen them further wherever necessary.

"We are committed to working with our local partners in developing countries to ensure they take these issues as seriously as we do, and with the wider international development sector to pursue a set of actions designed to collectively achieve the highest standards of safeguarding."

BBC Media Action, which produces programmes in countries across the world and trains journalists, is run separately from the BBC and is not funded by licence fee payers, but is chaired by Fran Unsworth, the BBC's director of news.

It is understood that under existing processes, the charity would only report such matters to DfID if they were the donor for the project concerned and the matters were considered to reach the threshold of a reportable incident.

It is also understood that DfID has now been made aware of the cases, including one historical case where they were the donor on the project concerned and misconduct was proven. No beneficiaries were involved in this case and it was an internal staff matter.

A spokesman for DfID said: "DfID does not have a record of any sexual misconduct allegations relating to BBC Media Action on our Counter Fraud and Whistleblowing system."

A BBC spokesman said: "BBC Media Action's valuable work supports and trains journalists in countries with underdeveloped media, helping tackle problems such as Ebola and the Rohingya refugee crisis.

"The charity's work also helps promote British values of free speech, impartiality and effective democratic scrutiny around the world.

"The charity is not funded by the licence fee and has its own safeguarding policy in place.

"As an independent charity BBC Media Action has a governance process in place where cases of this nature are reported to its trustees after being investigated by management, which is the appropriate action."