SEXUAL exploiters may still be being re-hired in the aid sector because employment schemes designed to exclude them can lack robust investigations, MPs have said.

The Commons International Development Committee also warned that schemes to prevent abusers being re-employed may lead to retaliation against those who raise legitimate concerns.

The MPs warned in a report published on Thursday that exploitation in the sector is continuing despite changes made following the high-profile scandal involving aid charities in Haiti in 2018.

And they urged against the reduction of aid because of the coronavirus pandemic, saying it could make women even more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

The MPs noted that the Government has made significant efforts to support schemes designed to prevent perpetrators of exploitation and abuse from being re-hired in the aid sector.

But, they said, the “lack of capacity” in the sector and an “absence of common standards” means the outcomes of investigations are “unreliable”.

“Therefore, there is a risk that the employment cycle schemes could be used to retaliate against people who raise legitimate concerns and they might fail to properly identify and prevent the re-employment of perpetrators,” they wrote.

The Foreign Office must review the cost and effectiveness of the “employment cycle schemes” to prevent abusers being re-employed in the sector, the MPs urged.

The committee acknowledged it is “difficult to estimate how widespread the problem” of exploitation is, but pointed to a small survey to suggest it “is still a problem”.

Some 73 per cent of 64 mainly aid workers who responded said they believe there is still a widespread problem of aid workers perpetrating acts of exploitation and abuse against aid recipients.

The MPs also raised concerns that non-disclosure agreements could be used to “cover up misconduct”.

Committee chairwoman Sarah Champion said: “Aid beneficiaries, by their very nature, are the most vulnerable people on the planet. I have huge admiration for the aid sector, but it needs to wake up to what is going on and embed safeguarding within all of its programmes.

“Our inquiry has found that abuse of beneficiaries is rife, and that the sector has effectively become the last safe haven for perpetrators.

“Throughout the inquiry we heard repeatedly of abusers acting with impunity, whistleblowers being hounded out of their jobs, and victims finding it impossible to secure justice.”