How much will building??cartel??have to pay?

2014-03-16 10:00

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Fifteen of South Africa’s largest construction companies will be facing a host of civil damages claims – and the hardest hit appears to be WBHO, which has 27 claim certificates issued against it by the competition tribunal.

The certificates mean those making the claim do not have to prove in court collusion took place, just the quantity of the damages that should be due to them as a result of the companies’ illegal conduct.

Raubex (17), Stefanutti Stocks (16), Murray & Roberts (14), Basil Read (13), Aveng (13) and Haw & Inglis (12) also feature.

The remaining eight construction companies have between one and eight certificates issued against them.

They are Esorfranki, G Liviero & Son, Hochtief Construction, Norvo, Rumdel, Vlaming, Giuricich Bros and Tubular Technical.

The projects for which certificates have been issued include the Cape Town Stadium, the FNB Stadium, Mbombela Stadium, the Gauteng freeway improvement project, Durban’s International Convention Centre, a University of Cape Town women’s residence, a Coega office block development, the Berg River dam, the Braamhoek quarry dam, the Bayhead road extension and the Khangela Bridge.

Road construction tenders also heavily dominate the list of projects, comprising close to half of all the projects.

Split across sectors, the projects cover roads (77), industry (28), stadiums (17), residential (11), water infrastructure (4), municipal infrastructure (three) and retail (one).

The City Of Cape Town (three certificates) and the economic development department (64) have confirmed they were busy preparing legal papers against certain construction firms.

The SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) confirmed to City Press this week it had received 28 certificates against various construction companies and was still busy working with experts to quantify the damage from each potential claim.

Only then would a decision be made on launching civil claims.

The National Black Contractors and Allied Trades Forum confirmed they had a number of certificates in their possession. City Press believes the number to be 46.

The forum’s chairperson, Sam Moleshiwa, told City Press this week no decisions had yet been taken on whether civil claims would be lodged by the organisation.

According to City Press’ calculations, the economic development department has 64 certificates involving 15 construction firms with Stefanutti Stocks (12), WBHO (12), Murray & Roberts (nine), Raubex (nine) and Aveng (eight) heading the list.

Out of Sanral’s total of 28 certificates involving eight construction firms, Raubex (seven), Basil Read (four), Murray & Roberts (four), WBHO (four) and Haw & Inglis (four) top the list.

The City of Cape Town has one certificate each against Aveng, Stefanutti Stocks and WBHO, while the National Black Contractors and Allied Trades Forum has 46 certificates against 14 construction firms with WBHO?(10), Haw & Inglis (7), Basil Read (7) and Rumdel (3) involved, among others.

In June last year, the competition commission announced the results of a fast-track settlement process for the construction cartel that resulted in 15 firms paying a total combined fine of R1.46?billion.

In total, 90 out of 300 investigated projects were settled. These 300 projects were said to have a total value of R47?billion.

Speaking last week, Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel confirmed the department was busy preparing its legal papers for civil claims against the guilty construction firms.

An attempt to get further comment from the department this week was unsuccessful.

City of Cape Town mayoral committee member for finance, Alderman Ian Neilson said three certificates had been issued to the city.

“The parties and contraventions referred to in the certificates all relate to the construction of the Cape Town Stadium,” he said.

“Our claim will be against Murray & Roberts and WBHO, who had the contract to build the stadium,” said Neilson. “We are quantifying our claim and I cannot yet say when we will lodge the claim.”

Sanral spokesperson Vusi Mona said: “We are working with experts to ascertain the damages suffered. Once this has been established, we will make the decision about pursuing civil litigation,” he said.

Moleshiwa said the National Black Contractors and Allied Trades Forum had received several certificates, but that no decisions had been made about pursuing legal action at present. “We have not communicated with any construction company regarding a lawsuit. The question of damages is premature and we would not like to comment at this stage.”

City Press contacted all 15 implicated construction firms this week and most did not respond.

Stefanutti Stocks executive secretary Elize Repsold told City Press this week it had received no approaches to date. Murray & Roberts’ Eduard Jardim said it had received “no legal correspondence” to date, “nor have we had any claims related to your query filed with the group”.

City Press also received a statement from Aveng: “Aveng is aware of certain certificates being issued in terms of section 65 of the Competition Act and will consider and deal with the merits of any such matters that may arise, appropriately, at the relevant time and to the full extent of our legal rights.”

Brian Robertson from Tubular Technical said it had not received any correspondence regarding civil claims and therefore could not comment.

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