Sun Oct 23 08:26:45 SAST 2016

big brother is watching you

By unknown | Feb 18, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Zweli Mokgata

Zweli Mokgata

Busting bread, milk, and medicine price-fixing cartels is just the start.

Shan Ramburuth, the competition commissioner, plans to make it a very difficult year for corrupt business people.

He says: "The main focus going forward is industries that matter to most South Africans, such as, food, health and banking. We will also be looking at bid-rigging in health and construction."

Ramburuth was appointed chief executive of the Competition Tribunal when the competition bodies were established in 1999.

With a small team of six people Ramburuth took over as competition commissioner in 2006 and oversaw the biggest prosecutions - including a R100million fine South African Airways paid for abuse of market dominance.

More recently, Ramburuth led the prosecution that persuaded the competition tribunal to impose a fine of R98million on listed conglomerate Tiger Brands for price fixing in bread prices.

The money goes to the department of finance, which in turn provides a subsidy for the running costs of the commission, including salaries for the officials. The commission, however, operates independently of government influence.

The commission doesn't determine fines that guilty offenders should pay, but the commissioner feels that the market would adjust prices once anti-competitive behaviour is corrected.

When Tiger Brands raised it's bread price by 40cents in January, the commissioner was fuming.

He said: "The blatant profiteering is an insult to the nation. It demonstrates that collusion is continuing or the cartel members are acting to maintain artificially high margins unlawfully."

A host of other cases have surfaced as a result of the commission's aggressive stance on unethical business practice.

The commission's strategy closely follows methods used successfully by the European Commission. In 2006 the European Commission collected fines worth more than R15billion from cases that were strengthened by corporate leniency programmes.

Ramburuth, 44, was born in Durban and pursued a medical degree in the 1980s, a venture that lasted for two years before his political activities put an end to his studies.

He completed a degree in biochemistry. By the time he became chief executive of the competition tribunal, he had earned a master's public policy focusing on economic policy

"I'm from the NGO sector working mainly with health policy and I've found that policy work in South Africa is something that grabs me deeply," he says.


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