Corruption inquiry publisher to pay £11m

A PUBLISHER was ordered to pay £11.2m in a court settlement after alleged bribery while trying to secure a contract to supply educational material in Africa, the Serious Fraud Office said yesterday.

Macmillan Publishers contacted the SFO in March last year after concerns were raised about payments made by an agent during an unsuccessful bid for the contract in Southern Sudan.

The SFO said in a statement that public tendering processes issued by national governments in the region “were susceptible to improper relationships being formed and corruption taking place”.

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It took High Court action against Macmillan, which will pay an £11.2m civil recovery order.

The SFO said that “the Company [Macmillan] may have received revenue that had been derived from unlawful conduct”.

This follows action taken by the World Bank, which funded the tender in Southern Sudan. In April 2010 it barred Macmillan from competing for any of its contracts for a minimum of three years.

The publisher has also decided to cease all live and prospective public tenders in its education division in East and West Africa, the SFO said.

Annette Thomas, chief executive of Macmillan, said: “Macmillan is a business with strong values rooted in education and development, which we hold dear. We will not tolerate any form of potentially unlawful behaviour, as our approach to the SFO has demonstrated.”

Macmillan was also told to investigate contracts it had won in Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia between 2002 and 2009.

It called in external advisers to help with implementing anti-corruption measures, and the SFO said it had co-operated fully with the investigation.

Stephen Zimmermann from the World Bank Integrity Vice Presidency said: “Corruption in any form is inexcusable, but corruption in an education programme for children in a developing country is simply repugnant.”