BULL STREET - The art of the Con

America’s Future, Maybe Yes, Maybe No

Collin Powell earned kudos for his stewardship of the Iraq War and was thought of so highly at one point that it was publicly discussed that he should run for President.  He wasn’t just asked by one party, both the Republicans and the Democrats thought that this guy would make one hell of a candidate and each would have given up their first born to have him in the fold.

Powell turned them down with the indication that he had other agendas to pursue. It seems that the good General was talking about America’s Future, an organization that was created to help children with the essentials that they would need ultimately to help themselves to a better life.

The charity did not get off to a good start, they wouldn’t disclose the salaries that the top people were receiving, (Powell not included), they took credit for donations that they had nothing to do with, they did not register the charity in certain places that they were doing business, they overstated there results and then they publicized something that their “consulting accountants”, PricewaterhouseCoopers, called a “performance study” to widely circulate inaccurate information on how the charity was performing. ([174])

We think that the fact that PricewaterhouseCoopers donated their time to this worthy cause and then issued misleading information is almost always the price you pay for getting something for nothing.  Pricewaterhouse for its part indicates, that the “report was not a rigorous audit by its own accountants, but an analysis of its consultants of information provided by America’s Promise. The consultants, who never talked directly to any of the companies or charities working with General Powell’s group, have acknowledged that the information might well be inaccurate, and could include multiple companies taking credit of the same effort, this study was not an audit or an attempt to verify commitments ” ([175])

Picture the scene, I receive literature with the prestigious name of PricewaterhouseCoopers on it and open it up.  It describers America’s Future and spins a tale of what it has already accomplished for underprivileged children. I sent in my check, but before too long information comes out that a lot of what I read was totally invented.  The people that put out the performance study announce that it isn’t their problem because they only wrote up what they had been told by others. Thus, it appears that the accounting firm is indicating that their role was that of a fictional author, not that of a consultant or an accounting firm. I think that when they send out their material in the future, and when they are acting only as reporters without verification from others, we ought to know about it.

PricewaterhouseCoopers was attempting to cash in on some free public relations because of Colin Powell’s name in what seemed to be a good cause.  They screwed up and once again are shamed. Colin Powell at least had the guts to put things into perspective; “We may not have been as smart as we should have been” Maybe we ought to hear PricewaterhouseCoopers mouth those same words just to give us a warm and fuzzy feeling.



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