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Friday, April 6, 2012

Greg Mortenson Found Guilty of Mismanagement and Misuse of Funds for his NGO in Pakistan

 It is a beautiful story but it's a lie (says Joe Krakauer in 60 minutes)

Greg Mortenson was himself surprised by the unexpected success of his two book ( 3 Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools) and his charity CAI (Central Asia Institute). Misuse of millions of dollars in donations and non- transparency in his charity finally lead to his down fall.

The main criticism was that he fabricated his stories in a non-fiction book and then his charity was used as a personal ATM for Mortenson says one of the board members of CAI who later resigned. Jon Krakaur in his book 3 Cups of Deceit mainly focused on the fact that Mortenson created a myth; was accountable to no one; and established ghost schools. I have to say that in a Pakistani context it is nothing new and nothing strange or even to be ashamed of.  Scores of people and governments have done this and got away with it in Pakistan. What's more important is the fact that Mortenson has deceived the donors who trusted him with money (more than 100 million dollars) for a cause that was actually very noble. Very young school children helped raise millions of dollars through Pennies for Peace project across the United States with 2600 schools associated with Greg Mortenson's charity. Moreover, he lied in his books which he defended as compression of events. I think that there is nothing wrong in admitting that one has come from across the world to build a school or two ( like Pakistan-Austria Primary School in Besham - A gift from a "real" mountaineer Gerfried Göschl and his family ) but one need not exaggerate. With 200 million people in Pakistan - how many have built schools or even fixed the problems in the already built public schools.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that:

"Under a settlement with the Montana Attorney General’s office, Greg Mortenson, the once-acclaimed author of “Three Cups of Tea,” has agreed to reimburse more than $1 million. Officials determined that the writer mismanaged funds raised to build schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan and diverted some to his own use, the AP reports (detail is HERE). Mortenson was removed as CAI’s executive director last fall, but he can stay on as an employee and will continue to draw a salary from the charity. The office further stated that Motenson is prohibited from holding any positions involving financial oversight.The Montana attorney general's report portrays Mortenson as a "complicated person" whose behavior jeopardized his noble pursuits. According to the report, CAI paid for Mortenson's travel expenses for his paid speaking engagements and the promotion of his book "Three Cups of Tea," while he personally pocketed travel reimbursements from event sponsors and speaking fees of up to $30,000 per engagement.
Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock says his office will monitor the organization to make sure it complies with the agreement. In his report, Bullock says, "Despite the severity of their errors, CAI is worth saving."

Really...is that all!!!

Since 2006, more than 100 million dollars have rolled in. His book was a mandatory read for all American soldiers in Afghanistan. Moreover, what about the accuracy of the contents in his books, his stories that are fabricated. Is it not unfair that he called his hosts in the tribal belts of Pakistan terrorists / taliban who kidnapped him which is such a big lie (More HERE). He sold fiction under non-fiction books.

Mortensen wrote: He was kidnapped by theTaliban in 1994

Here I have to say that Pakistan and the United Sates have a lot in common when it comes to the courts and serving justice. I strongly feel that Mortenson should resign from CAI (Central Asia Institute) which American Institute of Philanthropy also suggests.  All the schools that Mortenson established particularly in Northern Pakistan should work in collaboration with "The Agha Khan Rural Support Program" also known as Agha Khan Development Network one of the most trusted names working in this area for the longest time alongside CAI.

I don't know what implications will Mortenson's lawsuit etc. will have on his good name and reputation in Pakistan - but for some NGOs such as Depilex Smile Again Pakistan Foundation - for acid attack victims- they have got away with misuse of funds in millions of dollars, a copy cat of Mortenson's case. Up to 3 million dollars are unaccounted for. Hence transparency and accountability are two important factors that must NOT be undermined.

Finally, just have to say that people who try to be a face of the faceless and voice of the voiceless and do NOT empower these people to speak for themselves or stand for themselves then there is definitely something wrong with such projects no matter how noble a cause is. As a Pakistani, I am sad and disappointed with this whole saga. Greg Mortensen has a lot in common with the Pakistani elites - making money at the expense of poor and desperate people!

Read also:
Update: Ongoing legal woes for Greg Mortenson, 2/14/12;
Update: Jon Krakauer slams Greg Mortenson in digital expose, 4/19/11;
Author Greg Mortenson under fire after critical “60 Minutes” report, 4/18/11"
Three Cups of Sincerity by Nausheen Ali
Thank you all, for your support by Greg Mortenson