Discriminatory laws and policies have been identified as the main factors with the potential to distort competition in business.
Competition Authority (CA) chief executive officer, Thula Kaira stated at press briefing on Tuesday that competition can be distorted not just by business conduct, but also by laws and policies that are in place.
“Such laws and policies may be discriminatory in application and/or create entry conditions that frustrate competition,” he said.
Kaira said the competition watchdog performed below target rate in the year 2014/15. During the period, the authority had a performance rating of 82 percent from a target of 90 percent. However, he said while this was below target, it was commendable, noting the financial and human resource constraints that the authority faced in the year.
“We intervened in a number of mergers,” he said. “Our target was 35 mergers and we handled 32, down from 33 in 2013/14.”
According to Kaira, it is estimated that CA facilitated the injection of more than P145 million into existing businesses in Botswana. The authority further facilitated technological and skills transfer, creation and retention of 740 jobs as well as citizen empowerment.
On enforcement, the CA boss said the authority witnessed four new market participants in the physiotherapy equipment, sugar supply, cash-in-transit and alarm and response markets and the electrical supply markets respectively. Further, two bid-rigging cases were successfully investigated and referred to the Competition Commission by the end of the financial year. Kaira indicated that both cases coincidentally affect government procurement, adding that there were tenders worth P117 million for sugar beans and another worth P10 million for infant formula milk.
He said the enforcement process was not without bottlenecks as cases in the car panel beating cartel were withdrawn following discovery that the respondents had not been served with notices of investigation while for others, there were some procedural errors.
“To address this, the authority engaged in re-training of staff in investigations as well as streamlining the coordination of investigations. Further, the authority engaged KPMG, an audit, tax and advisory services firm, as internal auditors to review the investigation process and their recommendations have been under implementation,” Kaira said.
He went on to state that there was also an appeal lodged with the High Court against the Commission in which the appellants contended that the Commission was likely to be biased because the same commission members are board members of the authority.
However, that challenge was dismissed by the Commission and the respondents appealed the decision of the commission at the High Court. The matter was later withdrawn.