The South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) emphatically denounces the occurrence of corruption, called by another name in this case, collusion, anti-competitive behaviour and any unethical behaviour. The 15 construction firms that reached a settlement for collusive tendering may be called firms/companies, but a company consists of people. A company cannot collude, only its people can, and some of these are probably also members of SAICE.
The Competition Commission in its statement explained, “The responses to the Construction Fast-Track Settlement offer revealed various ways in which firms historically determined, maintained and monitored collusive agreements. These included meetings to divide markets and agree on margins. Different combinations of firms coordinated tenders over different projects. Firms colluded to create the illusion of competition by submitting sham tenders (“cover pricing”) to enable a fellow conspirator to win a tender. In other instances, firms agreed that whoever won a tender would pay the losing bidders a “loser’s fee” to cover their costs of bidding. Sub-contracting was also used to compensate losing bidders.”
The only positive aspect is that, according to Competition Commissioner Shan Ramburuth, “In revealing the extent of collusion in the construction industry, the Commission’s fast-track settlement broke up existing cartels and created awareness of collusive practices in the industry. Embedding a competitive culture will be critical to bringing down the costs of future infrastructure investments and will incentivise firms towards innovation and efficiency in future projects.”
Looking at the above, and comments made by Cosatu that the CEOs of these firms “must be arrested and sent to jail for treason”, and the SACP’s reaction that “given the operating profits of the companies, they (SACP) regard the sanction as a slap on the wrist for these thieves”, one cannot fathom how, for instance civil engineering professionals who are at the heart of service delivery and the creation of a better life for all wherever they work, could involve themselves in these practices. SAICE would in fact like to know what their thinking was and how to turn this eventus horribalis around, as the credibility of the civil engineering professional and the industry is at stake. Not only does it affect SAICE, but also most of its individual voluntary members who are people of integrity.
Manglin Pillay, CEO of SAICE, says, “During the Civilution Congress to be held from 6 to 8 April 2014 good governance and corruption will be extensively discussed in order to find appropriate solutions to deal with matters such as these.” The idea of Civilution is evident in Naren Bhojaram, President of CESA’s comment, “Embrace new ways of doing things, and most of all: let us all pull together towards a sustainable future. Sustainability is everyone’s business.” (CESA = Consulting Engineers South Africa)
SAICE supports the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) in their investigation into the conduct of several of these construction firms found guilty by the Competition Commission. Should the CIDB need input, SAICE will offer assistance where necessary, and would also welcome engagement with government on these issues.