Competition Tribunal clears WBHO in World Cup collusion case

The Competition Tribunal, adjudicates cases of anti-competitive behaviour, says it has dismissed a complaint against WBHO Construction which was accused of collusive tendering in the building of a road near Soccer City, Johannesburg, ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

The case had been referred to the Tribunal by the Competition Commission, which investigates cases of collusive of anticompettaive business practices. 

The matter relates to a 2006 probe into construction industry.

The Commission had accused WBHO and Group Five of participating in a "collusive agreement to fix trading conditions" for a tender to build a portion of road along the N17 between New Canada and Soccer City in Johannesburg.

The Commission alleged that the companies agreed to fix trading conditions during a meeting held in July 2006 with the South African Forum of Engineering Contractors (Safcec).

During the probe, Group Five applied for leniency while WBHO opposed the matter. In dismissing the case, the Tribunal said the Commission was unable to prove that there was an agreement between the companies to align their bids for the tender.

"We were given no reason by the Commission to treat this meeting as one that was any more than a tender clarification-seeking meeting," said a statement.

The Tribunal further stated that it was not provided with facts suggests that at the July 2006 meeting amounted to any exchange of information that was "indicative of the subversion of the competitive process."

"There may well be situations in which attending a meeting to discuss the difficulties parties have with a tender should be considered illegal, but the facts of this case do not support this conclusion," said the Tribunal.

Group Five is one of the local construction companies that have been hit hard by the economic downturn, and in March the firm a filed for bankruptcy protection.

It later announced that it would need to pay out R233m in severance packages.

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