Picture: Grant Thornton Johannesburg CEO, Paul Badrick. (Screengrab).

CAPE TOWN - Accounting and Advisory organisation, Grant Thornton Johannesburg announced that its CEO, Paul Badrick has voluntarily stepped aside. 

Badrick’s decision is with immediate effect and the Chair of Grant Thornton Johannesburg’s Governing Board, Serena Ho will take an active role with the Executive Committee in the management of the firm and its communications. 

This comes after sexual harassment allegations against Badrick came to light during an investigation by Grant Thornton International Limited (GTIL).  This followed a former director’s claims of sexual harassment against a former Head of Forensics earlier this year. 

Notably, the claims against Badrick were made during 2015. However, no formal complaints were made until the GTIL investigation which was just concluded. 

Meanwhile, Grant Thornton said that it will probe the allegations speedily and Badrick has stepped aside in order to allow the investigation to take place. 

According to the firm, these are new allegations which are yet to be investigated. 

This is not the first time that Grant Thornton has been hit with a sexual harassment scandal. Earlier this year, the firm said that they apologised “unreservedly” to two former employees who were sexually harassed by its former Head of Forensics. The accused had since left the firm. 

The firm also yesterday said in a letter to clients that it had “previously publicly apologised and acknowledged mistakes in the way the matter was handled and the impact it had on the individuals concerned”. Grant Thornton added:

“We have written to the individual who raised the allegations to acknowledge that the former Head of Forensics’ conduct violated acceptable standards. We have offered her a meaningful settlement amount for the impact this has had, and we have again apologised to her unreservedly.”

Notably, the GTIL investigation was one of three independent investigations that were undertaken. 

This includes an external, independent investigation which was led by Human Resources executive, Jennifer Jeftha and Grant Thornton is preparing a detailed report for the Commission for Gender Equality in response to their request for information. 

Grant Thornton takes action

In response to these allegations, Grant Thornton has went beyond its employee well-being programme and implemented additional programmes for staff which was run by an external labour consultant. The consultant was available once a week and met with staff in an anonymous and confidential setting. 

In addition to this, the firm said that they also held a series of five workshops which were attended by 118 staff members. These workshops focused on how to deal with harassment in the workplace with further workshops being planned. 

Grant Thornton acknowledged that “something had gone wrong” and said the GTIL report highlighted a need for the firm to address its leadership’s approach to upholding global values and standards. It reinforced the need for the Johannesburg firm to create an environment where its people felt respected and supported.

“We have zero tolerance for any form of harassment. We will continue to monitor and review and will take steps to address leadership challenges and the underlying culture,” the firm said.

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- BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE