Priti Patel has said the Department for International Development (DfID) knew about allegations of sexual misconduct by aid workers but gave her “push back” when she demanded it investigate further.
Oxfam is facing mounting criticism over its handling of sex allegations, but has denied it tried to cover up the use of prostitutes by workers in Haiti in 2011.
International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said on Sunday the charity had failed in its “moral leadership” and put at risk its government funding.
But Patel, Mordaunt’s predecessor, raised the pressure on the Theresa May’s government itself, by claiming DfID officials obstructed her attempts to tackle the problem.
Speaking to Sky News, Patel said she had received “a lot of push back within my own department”.
“I pushed harder. I had push back internally and that is the scandal,” she said.
Patel, the former development secretary, who was forced to resign from the cabinet in November of unauthorised meetings with Israeli ministers, made the same allegations on BBC Radio 5′s Pienaar’s Politics.
“People knew in DfID, I raised this directly with my department at the time,” she said.
Asked if she was accusing government officials of being “complicit” in a culture of cover up, Patel said: “My former department did not raise this issue with me. I raised it with them through my own investigations and my own research.”
She said the United Nations knew of 120 cases involving over 300 people and that this was just the “tip of the iceberg”.
Mordaunt told the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme she would meet Oxfam on Monday to discuss the case, and said: “If the moral leadership at the top of the organisation is not there then we can not have you as a partner.”
She said Oxfam had done “absolutely the wrong thing” by failing to inform authorities about the full details of the allegations.
In a further warning to the charity, she said: “If they do not hand over all the information that they have from their investigation and subsequently to the relevant authorities, including the Charity Commission and prosecuting authorities, then I cannot work with them any more as an aid delivery partner.”
Four members of Oxfam staff were dismissed and three, including the country director, resigned before the end of the 2011 investigation.
The charity said allegations that under-age girls may have been involved were not proven.
Mordaunt has written to all UK charities which receive UK aid urging them to declare any safeguarding issues, and will also meet the Charity Commission this week to discuss the regulation of organisations overseas.