UK firm PwC criticised over bid for major Saudi Arabia contract

One of Britain’s biggest consulting and accountancy firms has been negotiating to land a major contract to help streamline and modernise Saudi Arabia’s military, the Guardian can reveal.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) confirmed it had tendered for the project, which will be part of a wholesale transformation of the kingdom’s defence ministry designed to better equip and support its frontline forces.

PwC declined to comment further about the talks. It said there was an “ongoing tender process with a number of participants pitching for work”.

The negotiations, for a deal that could be worth millions to the company, have drawn criticism from campaign groups. Campaigners have condemned the country’s involvement in the conflict in Yemen, claiming its airstrikes have killed civilians and amount to war crimes.

Peter Frankental, Amnesty International UK’s economic affairs programme director, urged PwC to explain what due diligence it had undertaken before pitching for the work.

“Like any company, international accountancy firms should ensure that they avoid contributing to human rights violations in their operations, or being directly linked to them by their business relationships.

“We’d like to know what due diligence the company has done. The United Nations guiding principles on business and human rights make it clear that a company may be viewed as complicit if they are seen to benefit from abuses committed by another party.”

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The Saudi ministry of defence is run by Mohammed bin Salman. The 32-year-old crown prince is said to be the world’s youngest defence minister and is also the kingdom’s deputy prime minister.