Bono's advocacy group admits to "institutional failure" after investigation into sexual harassment allegations 2 years ago

Bono's advocacy group admits to "institutional failure" after investigation into sexual harassment allegations

"Some said their manager put them to work on domestic tasks in her home."

The CEO of ONE, an advocacy group co-founded by Bono, has admitted that members of its staff were the victims of harassment and bullying for several years.

Gayle Smith, who became the group's CEO and President in March 2017, wrote on ONE's official website that an investigation into historical cases of harassment within the organisation revealed that there was an "institutional failure" when it came to protecting staff.

According to Smith, the incidents - which took place between 2011 and 2015 in the group's Johannesburg office - came to her attention in November when former employees spoke publicly about their mistreatment via social media.

Pointing out that their complaints had never been addressed, Smith she promptly led an internal investigation.

"The investigation yielded evidence of unprofessional conduct and, in particular, what I would characterise as bullying and belittling of staff between late 2011 and 2015 in our Johannesburg office," Smith wrote.

"Staff were called names, and some said their manager put them to work on domestic tasks in her home," she continued. "The investigation also found the situation was not adequately addressed nor resolved by executive management at the time, and that ONE’s board was not, in my view, properly or fully informed."

Smith went on to say that one former employee was subjected to sexist and suggestive comments about her to a government official from another country.

Furthermore, on 7 March 2018, when the group was informed by former employees of their intentions to take legal action, "they informed us of a new allegation that she was demoted because she did not become intimate with the official."

These claims, Smith admits they are still unable to corroborate, however she noted, "We do not discount any allegation - we investigate them and will continue to do so should others arise."

"The overall evidence from our investigation was sufficient for me to conclude that we needed to own an institutional failure and ensure that our organisation has in place the systems, policies and practices needed so that this never happens again."

ONE primarily campaigns and advocates in Africa to combat poverty and fight easily preventable diseases. It was co-founded in 2004 by U2 frontman Bono, and he has remained its chief spokesperson since this period.

The anti-poverty foundation was previously criticised after it was revealed that of the £9.6 million donations it received in 2008, only 1.2% of this was given to charity, while £5.1 million was used for its workers salaries.