PwC asked to wind down consulting work for Space Park

27 July 2020 2 min. read
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PwC is being taken off the proposed Space Park project in Kerala, after being held responsible for appointing an operations manager linked in a case of gold smuggling.

The Space Park in Thiruvananthapuram is conceptualised as a space ecosystem that will bring together global space startups and house state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities for space technology. Big Four accounting and advisory firm PwC was brought on board to advise on the project when it was first conceptualised back in 2019.

However, the firm has now landed in trouble, after a dubious appointment was found to be made at the senior leadership level of the project. Swapna Suresh was brought on board as an operations manager by a sub-contractor appointed by PwC, and has since been accused in a case of gold smuggling.

“It is shocking that a lady who is now the second accused in the anti-national smuggling case with criminal antecedents and facing allegations has been chosen as the programme coordinator for an even involving top space scientists in the country,” wrote Kerala opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala in a letter to the Prime Minister.

PwC asked to wind down consulting work for Space Park

Speaking to the Times of India (ToI), an official in the Kerala government’s IT department indicated that the blame lies with PwC for the appointment, despite the fact that the consulting firm used a third-party vendor – Vision Technologies – to recruit Suresh.

“When the project was conceived, PwC was assigned as a consultant. PwC was asked to provide a qualified resource for the existing opening. The department allowed her to work based on the verification reports submitted by the consultants. Now, it has come to our notice that the candidate submitted forged documents to secure the job. There is failure on the part of the consultants to ensure that a proper candidate is recruited,” said the official.

ToI reports that PwC has now been served its notice, following orders from the Chief Minister of Kerala to terminate the consultancy’s contract. The incident is a blot on the map of a strong relationship between PwC and the Kerala government, which extends beyond this single project.

In 2017, the Kerala government hired PwC on an infrastructure contract to connect Kochi with the mammoth Chennai-Bangalore Industrial Corridor. PwC has significant experience with India’s infrastructure sector, and will be hoping to recover from this latest incident.