Ruling on collusion to take time

Construction companies involved in collusion await ruling.

15 companies colluded on projects including the 2010 FIFA World Cup stadiums and the Gautrain.

JOHANNESBURG - A two day hearing by the competition tribunal was held this week to assess a R1.4 billion settlement agreement between the commission and 15 companies who were found guilty of bid-rigging.

The Competition Commission said a final ruling into collusion in the construction industry may take longer than normal because of the number of companies and documents involved.

The commission's original probe uncovered widespread anti-competitive behaviour in the industry, including tender-rigging in projects worth more than R47 billion.

The firms have apologised for their actions saying they were trying to close that chapter and make sure such behaviour was not repeated.

The projects included the construction of the 2010 FIFA World Cup stadiums, the Gautrain, hospitals, dams and bridges, and upgrades to airports and highways.

The commission's Trudy Makhaya said the companies were forced to answer tough questions. The tribunal questioned the companies about how they disguised "loser fees" to other firms and whether they punished those implicated in collusion.

She said while some firms showed genuine remorse, others appeared to try to justify their actions. The CEO of one of the guilty companies asked South Africans for forgiveness.

Murray & Roberts CEO Henry Laas said there was nothing left to do but apologise.

"Murray & Roberts is a household name in South Africa and it has played a significant role for more than 110 years in establishing South Africa's infrastructure. This is the bleakest moment in its history."

The tribunal scrutinised each one of the 15 agreements and will now rule on whether the penalties are appropriate.

No date has been given for when the ruling will be announced.