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6 July 2012 | Kamalpreet Badasha
Oxford Publishing has been fined nearly £1.9 million following an investigation into its tendering processes by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).
In 2011 Oxford University Press (OUP) - a subsidiary of Oxford Publishing - became aware of irregularities in tender processes involving its international divisions Oxford University Press East Africa (OUPEA) in Kenya and Oxford University Press Tanzania (OUPT).
Following an investigation OUP reported concerns to the SFO about a number of contracts entered into between 2007 and 2010. The SFO said the findings of the investigation suggested the two African divisions had made payments to attempt to influence the results of tenders for school text books. Two of these tenders were funded by the World Bank.
In addition to the fine of just under £1.9 million imposed by the High Court, OUP will also contribute £2 million to not-for-profit organisations for teacher training and educational projects in Africa.
Nigel Portwood, chief executive of OUP, said in a statement: "The improper behaviour was confined to a small part of the global organisation but of course such conduct should not happen at all. We are absolutely committed to the highest standards of integrity throughout OUP, and are redoubling our efforts to secure that commitment.”
As a result of the investigation OUP has now introduced compliance procedures to prevent such irregularities. The procedures will be reviewed by an independent monitor who will be reporting to the SFO and World Bank within the next 12 months. Both OUPT and OUPEA will be barred from participating in World Bank tenders for three years.
“This settlement demonstrates that there are, in appropriate cases, clear and sensible solutions available to those who self report issues of this kind to the authorities. The company will be adopting new business practices to prevent a recurrence of these issues and these new procedures will be subject to an extensive and detailed review,” said SFO director David Green CB QC.
In July 2011 Macmillan Publishing was fined more than £11 million by the SFO for “unlawful conduct” relating to contract awards in East Africa.