For ripping off Ghanaian authors and failing to supply books for two years

By: Ebo  Quansah

Anthony Forbes Watson, MD, Macmillan

Authors of Ghanaian textbooks are threatening to haul British publishing magnate Macmillan Publishing Limited and its Ghanaian associate company, Unimax Macmillan, to court for not making their published works available on the market for two years, thus denying them royalties which should have accrued to them.

They have also decided to terminate their contractual agreement with the British publishing firm.

In a strongly-worded letter from their solicitors, the aggrieved party claimed that in the course of the two years, MacMillan had denied Ghanaian schools access to books in science and the humanities written by Ghanaian authors, upon which the syllabi of this nation’s education requirements were based.

They also contend that contrary to a contractual agreement between the two parties, the World Bank blacklisted the publishing giant which was in the process of illegally transferring the copyright of the Ghanaian authors to a third party, according to a letter filed by the authors’ team of solicitors to MacMillan, and sighted by The Chronicle.

MacMillan was banned from participating in any World Bank-funded project for six years in April this year, following its role in allegations of fraud and corruption involving the Multi-Donor Trust Fund in Southern Sudan, established in 2006 to provide funding for post-conflict reconstruction in the region, in the wake of two decades of civil conflict.

“Our instructions are that our clients’ textbooks have not been made available on the market for over two years. Consequently, our clients have lost royalties. In addition, even though most of the syllabi have been revised, and our clients have been ready and willing to perform their obligations under the agreement, you, as publishers, have failed or refused to contract them for the necessary revision of the books, in accordance with the terms of the agreement,” wrote Lexudos, the firm of solicitors acting on behalf of the authors of Ghanaian books, and addressed to the Managing Director of Macmillan in Oxford, the company’s headquarters in Britain.

The letter from the author’s solicitors states further: “Our clients have instructed us to say that they have read in the newspapers, and on the internet, that the World Bank has banned Macmillan Publishers from participating in any World Bank-funded procurement for a period of five years. Definitely, this will have adverse effects on their books and income, especially, in view of the fact that the Ghanaian text-book market is donor-driven.

“It has also come to our clients’ attention that Macmillan Publishers are in the process of selling the Ghanaian List to a third party. This, our clients, strongly objects to. By this letter, we are notifying you to terminate the agreement, and in the meantime, apply to the courts for interim relief, restraining you from selling publishing rights to their books to any third party.

Under the terms of engagement, “If the Work becomes unavailable or out of print, the author may terminate this Agreement on service of written notice to the Publisher, requesting that the work be re-issued within six months of the written notice, failing which the Agreement may be considered to have terminated.”

On April 30, 2010, the World Bank issued a statement declaring Macmillan ineligible to be awarded the bank’s-financed contracts for a period of six years, in the wake of the publishing firm’s admission of bribery payments relating to a Trust-Fund-supported education in Southern Sudan.

“This agreement,” explained Leonard MacCarthy, Integrity Vice-President of the World Bank Group, “is an acknowledgement of past wrong-doing by Macmillan, and demonstrates the World Bank’s unwavering commitment to ensuring all those who participate in World Bank-financed projects, including those who do not actually get contracts, are held to the highest levels of integrity, while also encouraging companies to come forward and join our fight against corruption.”

At a Ghana Textbook Review Development Training Workshop in Accra, on Wednesday, November 17, 2010, Tony Reed, former Director of the Publishers Association of Great Britain and now  a textbook consultant, reportedly took Macmillan to the cleaners, describing the publishing company as ‘corrupt’, and a ‘fraudulent’ organisation.

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