The media storm that followed information that the Grant Thornton Johannesburg firm remains an “invoice channel” for their former head of forensics, Vernon Naidoo, accused by two former employees of being a sex pest, has seen CEO Paul Badrick announcing there will be a review of the way they handled the sexual harassment allegations levelled against Naidoo.
“On behalf of Grant Thornton Johannesburg, I would like to apologise to the two former employees involved. I have tried to reach out to Nerisha by telephone, but I have not been able to reach her yet. I would like to speak to both of them directly to convey my regrets and those of all their colleagues.
“In addition, it was a mistake for us to allow the accused former director to perform limited services with clients in which he was personally involved after he had left the firm,” said Badrick in a media statement, in which he emphasised that the company had “cut all ties” with Naidoo.
Badrick said he had subsequently removed this matter “from line management” and that “grievances and the culture of Grant Thornton Johannesburg need to be investigated by independent third parties”.
He added that Grant Thornton International “will also investigate the allegations and our firm’s response”.
The firm’s admission, through deputy CEO Gillian Saunders, that Naidoo continued to render services that are billed through the company led to The Citizen venturing to establish exactly who continues to do business with the disgraced former director.
Abel Sithole, principal executive officer of the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF), said: “Grant Thornton is on the panel of legal firms that the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) can use if it needs legal advice.”
Sithole said GEPF was not dealing with any specific employees of the company.
Reacting to the information that Grant Thornton provided a billing channel for Naidoo, forensic investigator Paul O’Sullivan informed The Citizen he had pursued Naidoo for a while.
“This is the same guy that was bedding down the Grant Thornton junior employees. I sent this to Robert Cameron Ellis at the ACFE in 2015, after advising him that Naidoo was not a fit and proper person to be a member of the ACFE. I also sent it to the Institute of Directors, and they did not renew his membership in 2017,” he wrote.
Wilhem Nauta, the investment executive at property company Hyprop, said he had never “heard” of Vernon Naidoo.
Angela Cherrington, the CEO of the Institute of Directors of South Africa (IoDSA), confirmed Naidoo was not a member of the institute nor a service provider.
Dr Claudelle von Eck, the CEO of Institute of Internal Auditors of SA (IIASA) said in a written response: “We take a very dim view of sexual harassment and would take disciplinary action against any member found guilty of the offence. Our members are expected to adhere to our code of ethics. The institute was, until today, not aware of the accusation of sexual harassment levelled against our member.
“No complaint had been lodged with us. Due process will be followed now that we are aware. I cannot bypass our processes and answer the question purely based on an allegation that has come to our attention through the media. If he is found guilty, we would naturally be very disappointed,” said Von Eck.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to Angela Cherrington as “Angela Cherrington-Oosthuizen”. It also incorrectly stated that Naidoo was a member of the IoDSA, when the information provided to The Citizen was that he in fact did not have “an active IoDSA membership for the 2018 period”. Furthermore, the comments that are now correctly attributed to Claudelle von Eck were earlier incorrectly attributed to Angela Cherrington. We sincerely regret the error.