“[The U.K.] should be focusing on trying to stop this terrible conflict, not assisting the Saudi government. British companies should be very cautious indeed in what they are supporting. Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and getting worse by the day.” – Anna Macdonald, director of a global arms-control organization
LONDON — A powerful U.K.-based consulting and accountancy firm is seeking to land a major contract to “modernize” Saudi Arabia’s military — a military currently involved in waging a genocidal war against the people of Yemen and fomenting the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), confirmed to the Guardian that it was seeking the contract, which could be worth millions of dollars, despite criticism from groups campaigning against the Saudi-led war in Yemen.
Were it to win the contract, PwC would be responsible for guiding the Saudis in how “to reshape recruitment, resourcing, performance management and strategic workforce planning, and how to manage and communicate change.” PwC executives have told staff that the Saudi government seeks to begin an “ambitious transformation to modernise its armed forces at a size and scale rarely seen before.” The company’s staff have also stated that PwC appears to be “currently finalizing the deal.”
Prominent human-rights groups have, however, urged the firm to reconsider pursuing the contract. For instance, Peter Frankental, Amnesty International U.K.’s economic affairs program director, told the Guardian:
As any accountancy firm involved in work for the Saudi ministry of defence must know, the Royal Saudi air force has an appalling record in Yemen, with the Saudi-led military coalition having indiscriminately bombed Yemeni homes, hospitals, funeral halls, schools and factories. Thousands of Yemeni civilians have been killed and injured.”
Frankental was joined by Anna Macdonald — currently director of the Control Arms Secretariat, a global coalition that supports international arms control — who asserted that:
[The U.K.] should be focusing on trying to stop this terrible conflict, not assisting the Saudi government. British companies should be very cautious indeed in what they are supporting. Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and getting worse by the day.”
Joining the club of war profiteers
Many U.K. companies, however, have made handsome profits at the expense of Yemen’s plight, particularly U.K. weapon contractors like BAE systems. In addition, as MintPress reported this past May, an estimated 7,000 employees of U.K. contractor companies, civil servants, and temporarily deployed U.K. military personnel are currently and directly aiding the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) and other Saudi security forces in their brutal bombing campaign against Yemen — all with the full support of the U.K. government.
According to the UN, that bombing campaign has killed 5,500 civilians and injured over 9,000 since it began in 2015. It has also targeted civilian infrastructure, including hospitals and clinics — the destruction of which, coupled with the Saudi-led coalition’s blockade of the country, has allowed a “preventable” cholera epidemic to reach well over a million cases.
Furthermore, it is highly unlikely that PwC itself would consider bowing to “humanitarian” concerns, given that it arguably one of the most scandal-ridden accountancy and consulting firms in the world — having been involved on a massive scale from everything from fraud to money laundering to false claims.
For example, the firm was also intimately involved in the collapse of Colonial Bank during the 2008 financial crisis by failing to properly vet mortgage documents. PwC has also worked on behalf of dubious “charitable” funds such as the Clinton Foundation, where it helped to hide donations made to the foundation by foreign governments while Hillary Clinton served as secretary of state.
With that background, a company like PwC is hardly likely to be convinced to turn down a contract worth millions of dollars due solely to pressure from human-rights groups, particularly given the fact the U.K. government itself continues openly to aid the Saudi military in its destructive war against the people of Yemen.