World Bank bars UK publisher over Sudan payments

KHARTOUM Wed May 5, 2010 8:27am EDT

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KHARTOUM (Reuters) - The World Bank said it had banned British publisher Macmillan from taking up its contracts for six years after the company said it paid bribes to secure a deal to print textbooks in south Sudan.

Macmillan said it made "corrupt payments" in a bidding process for an education project supported by a World Bank-managed fund in the African region, the bank said in a statement.

"The World Bank Group has debarred Macmillan Limited ... declaring the company ineligible to be awarded Bank-financed contracts for a period of six years in the wake of the company's admission of bribery payments relating to a Trust Fund-supported education project in Southern Sudan," read the statement.

International donors have pumped millions of dollars into development projects in war-ravaged south Sudan through a Multi Donor Trust Fund (MDTF) managed by the World Bank.

Macmillan, which publishes a wide range of books, on Wednesday did not respond to a request to talk about the detail of the Sudan bid.

"We will not tolerate improper behavior as a company, and the fact that we have worked closely with the World Bank to reach this agreement is evidence of that," said a Macmillan spokesman in a statement.

"There is no suggestion that these concerns have affected any of Macmillan's other principal businesses, and it is the case that they are confined to a limited part of our education business."

COMPLIANCE AND COOPERATION

Macmillan had agreed to roll out a "compliance monitoring program" and cooperate with the bank's efforts to fight fraud and corruption, the World Bank statement read.

"Macmillan admitted engaging in bribes in an attempt to get a contract to print textbooks for the education rehabilitation project in south Sudan," a World Bank official, who asked not to be named, told Reuters. "This happened during the bidding process and Macmillan did not get the contract."

The official, based in Washington, said the payments were offered between 2008 and 2009.

The Trust Fund was set up in 2006 to finance the rebuilding of south Sudan's economy, government, health and education systems devastated by decades of civil war.

Macmillan, a privately-owned company, links to the text of an "Anti-bribery policy" on its website (international.macmillan.com).

The document, which does not mention the Sudanese deal, said Macmillan's board had adopted a "zero tolerance approach to acts of bribery and corruption," acts which it said harmed societies in which they were committed.

The World Bank said the six-year ban could be cut in half if the publisher continued to cooperate with its staff.

The debarment, which currently runs until 29 April 2016, had already been reduced from eight years because of how quickly Macmillan admitted the "corrupt payments" said the bank's statement.

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