Attempts to intervene in the Competition Tribunal hearing to approve the settlement between 15 construction companies involved in collusive activity and the Competition Act were dismissed today.
The SA Local Government Association (Salga) and the Gauteng provincial government had lodged applications with the Competition Tribunal to be intervening parties in the construction sector’s settlement process with the Competition Commission.
Fifteen construction companies are settling 101 violations of the Competition Act with the commission and these are detailed in the consent order agreements before the tribunal.
These consent order agreements are set to be heard by the tribunal today and tomorrow, but before they could, Salga and the Gauteng government wanted the hearings postponed until they were given access to the commission records of the fast-track settlement process.
At the heart of this request is the need to ensure that enough information is made available to enable successful civil claims against the construction firms who are admitting guilt in the settlement process.
Representing Salga and the Gauteng government was Hamilton Maenetje, who argued that without certain critical pieces of information it was difficult for his clients to make meaningful submissions to the tribunal.
“The applicants are not in a position at this point to make a decision that the consent order agreements should be approved,” said Maenetje.
Maenetje said there was a “paucity” of information in the public domain and it was not sufficient.
Tribunal chairperson Norman Manoim argued during the hearing that it looked like the parties wanted to be a “second-guessing prosecutor”, a claim the legal representatives of the commission and construction companies also put forward.
However, Maenetje denied this.
Advocate David Unterhalter, representing the commission, argued that Salga and the Gauteng government had not illustrated that they had anything to add to the proceedings.
Unterhalter argued that the process should not be stalled, as it was the admission of guilt included in the consent order agreements that would allow civil claims for damages to be lodged by affected parties.
Maenetje argued that the delays would pale in comparison with the number of years that Salga members had suffered damages at the hands of the construction cartel.
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