S.Africa’s Corruption Watch closing in on “corrupt” bid-riggers - CNBC Africa

S.Africa’s Corruption Watch closing in on “corrupt” bid-riggers

Southern Africa

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“It’s the one form of collusive conduct that has force funnelled the anti-corruption legislation because it is a particular species of corruption,” David Lewis, Executive Director of Corruption Watch told CNBC Africa on Thursday.

“It’s a very particular form of collusive conduct, one that I think seriously warrants criminal sanctions.”

The Competition Commission is going ahead with its plans to fine 55 South African construction companies for bid-rigging and price-fixing. Early this year it handed out a total of 1.46 billion rand fines to private sector construction firms implicated in foul play during the 2010 soccer World Cup infrastructure developments.

On Wednesday the Corruption Watch said it presented a submission to the Competition Tribunal for hearings into their settlement agreements. Lewis said by allowing the law to take its course will ensure future ethical behaviour. 

“The hawks are already on record investigating this and the commission is cooperating with the hawks. It may make lenience applications less likely and it may also send an incredible signal that the risks and consequences can be catastrophic for any business,” said Lewis.

Among the implicated companies are Aveng and Murray & Roberts who were fined 306 million rand and 309 million rand respectively. The highest fine was handed to Wilson Bayly Holmes Ovcon at 311 million rand. 

“There’s something very special about this particular cartel and that is it’s a bit rigging cartel which I think is a particularly pugnacious form of anti-competitive conduct. It seems reasonably clear that without criminalising the Competition Act the provisions of the preventions and combating of corrupt activities act outlaws bid-rigging cartels in the case of public sector contracts.

David Lewis also chaired the Competition Tribunal for a decade from its founding in 1999, which opposed criminalisation of cartel activities.