By Drazen Jorgic
NAIROBI (Reuters) - Oxford University's publishing arm has agreed to pay $3.5 million to settle two cases of improper payments to government officials in east Africa, Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and the World Bank said on Tuesday.
Oxford Publishing Limited, agreed to pay 1.9 million pounds ($2.98 million) after the SFO initiated court action. Its parent company Oxford University Press (OUP) admitted "improper behavior".
The World Bank conducted a separate investigation into OUP's Tanzania and Kenya-based subsidiaries which it said paid off government officials for two text books contracts relating to World Bank-financed education projects.
OUP, the world's largest university press, agreed to pay the World Bank $500,000 in a "negotiated resolution".
The World Bank said the Oxford University Press Tanzania (OUPT) and Oxford University Press East Africa (OUPEA), which is based in Kenya and also operates in Burundi, Malawi, Rwanda, Sudan and Uganda, would be barred from applying for World Bank-financed projects for three years.
"The improper behavior was confined to a small part of the global organization but of course such conduct should not happen at all," Nigel Portwood, Chief Executive of OUP, said in a statement.
"We are absolutely committed to the highest standards of integrity throughout OUP, and are redoubling our efforts to secure that commitment."
OUP said it would also pay an additional £2 million to not-for-profit organizations for teacher training and other educational purposes in sub-Saharan Africa.
(Editing by Richard Lough and Robin Pomeroy)