Charl van der Merwe
A day after the South African Competition Commission (SACC) formally charged Stuttaford Van Lines, a furniture removal company, with a record breaking 649 counts of collusive tendering relating to hundreds of tenders in respect of government bids, the SACC on Thursday, 3 August 2017, carried out search and seizure raids (Dawn Raids) at the premises of the Automatic Sprinkler Inspection Bureau (ASIB), as well as 25 fire control and protection services companies across four provinces.
This is the largest search and seizure operation carried out by the SACC which was conducted across the country at the respondents premises situated in Athlone, Milnerton, Stellenbosch, Century City, Westlake, Bellville, Brackenfell, Montague Gardens, (WC) Pinetown, Springfield, Chatsworth, Stamford Hill, Windemere, Morningside (KZN), East London, PE (EC) and Houghton (GP).
The SACC alleges that the ASIB and its members have engaged in price fixing, market allocation and collusive tendering through its adherence to various (legally accepted) rules and standards which essentially constitutes an agreement to exclude non-members from the market. The SACC, in its media statement indicated that “this is investigation is particularly concerning because of the seemingly prominent role played by consulting engineering companies in facilitating this cartel as well as the confirmation of pervasiveness of cartels in the construction sector.”
Notably, these Dawn Raids form part of the SACC’s ongoing investigation in this sector which has already culminated in several Gauteng companies admitting to collusion and settling with the SACC by way of a consent order.
Consent Orders general impose obligations on respondents to provide on-going assistance to the SACC in its investigation of other respondents. Broadening the scope of the investigation from Gauteng to a national region may be as a result of the evidence which the SACC obtained from those respondents who have already concluded settlement agreements with the SACC.
The Companies raided are: ANS Fire Protection Services CC; Arksun Fire Equipment CC t/a Fire Equipment; BH Fire Protection Services CC; Belfa Fire (Pty) Ltd (Belfa Coastal Cape); Belfa Fire (Pty) Ltd (Belfa Coastal Natal); Bhubesi Fire Projects (Pty) Ltd; Chubb Fire and Security (Pty) Ltd (KwaZulu Natal); Country Contracts CC; Cross Fire Management (Pty) Ltd; Eagle Fire Control CC; Fire and General CC; Fire Check CC; Fire Control Systems KwaZulu-Natal CC; Fire Design CC; Fire Sprinkler Installations CC; Fire Sprinkler Installations CC; FireCo (Pty) Ltd (FireCo Cape); FireCo (Pty) Ltd (FireCo KZN); Jasco Fire Solutions (Pty) Ltd (Jasco Cape); OVG Fire Management (Pty) Ltd (OVG Cape); QD Fire Cape CC; Specifire (Pty) Ltd; Whip Fire Projects (Pty) Ltd; and Ramsin Industrial Supplies CC t/a Fire Unlimited.