Two food-supplying companies yesterday appeared before the Competition Commission accused of rigging tenders worth a combined P114 million for the supply of sugar beans to schools across the country.
The companies, Creative Business Solutions, trading as Bread and Butter Foods and Rabbit Group were dragged before the commission by the Competition Authority (CA) on accusation of colluding to fix prices in the multi-million tenders.
Bread and Butter Foods was awarded tenders worth P58 million for Palapye, Selebi Phikwe, Francistown and Maun while Rabbit Group was awarded tenders worth P56 million for Lobatse, Gaborone and Mahalapye areas.
The tenders were awarded by the Ministry of Local Government for the supply of 7,530 metric tones of sugar beans.
It is understood that the Authority acted on a tip-off from an informer alleging that certain companies, in response to the tenders, had colluded in terms of pricing.
However, the Commission did not get to hear the merits of the arguments as both parties only argued on legal points with the respondents contending that the matter should be dismissed as it was filed later than within the prescribed date.
The companies, through their attorney Mboki Chilisa, contended that the Competition Authority did not refer the matter to the Commission within one year of the opening of an investigation as required by section 39 of the Act.
He also argued that the matter was not referred to the Commission by the chief executive officer, who is the executive secretary of the Competition Authority as it is a requirement under section 39 (2) of the Act.
However, attorney Abel Modimo representing the Competition Authority stated that all the raised points of law are devoid of merit or substance in law.
Modimo pointed out that the raising of points of law at this stage of the proceedings was an abuse of the process of the Commission, pleading with the Commission to dismiss all the points with costs.
After listening to the arguments, the Commission adjourned the case pending the decision of whether the merits of case should be heard or not. The case was before a panel of five commissioners, including Dr Jay Salkin, Dr Selina Peters, Tendani Malebeswa, Phendisile Phuthego and Jay Lare Kombani.