Former M&R bosses pursued for graft

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BR Gautrain 499[1] Independent Newspapers Murray & Roberts is seeking damages from six former executives after the listed construction group agreed last year to pay a fine of R309 million to settle charges of 17 prohibited practices or contraventions of the Competition Act. Photo: Antoine de Ras

Johannesburg - Murray & Roberts (M&R) has reported six former executives to the SAPS in terms of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act. The JSE-listed construction and engineering group has also launched an initiative to recover from these executives damages suffered by the group.

Chief executive Henry Laas said yesterday that M&R had corresponded with all six former executives and was in “conversations” with three of them about a possible settlement after M&R was fined for anti-competitive behaviour.

Laas added that the other three former executives had not yet responded to M&R’s invitation to engage with the group on this issue.

One of them was now living in Australia and M&R was finding it difficult to get a response from him but the other two were in South Africa and the group knew where to find them, he said.

“It’s a difficult conversation because none of these executives have been found guilty in any court of law or any disciplinary process,” Laas said.

“But their names came out in allegations that were made and in some of the matters we have more than an allegation but other witnesses can confirm what actually happened. We don’t want these guys to walk away scot free but to also feel the pain.”

M&R chairwoman Mahlape Sello told the group’s general meeting in November that M&R was committed to pursuing legal action against former executives and employees implicated in anti-competitive behaviour and recouping damages from them.

M&R agreed last year to pay a fine of R309 million in respect of 17 prohibited practices or contraventions of the Competition Act.

Laas said M&R had five historic cases of alleged collusion that still had to be settled and was waiting for the Competition Commission to engage with the company.

These cases were not settled because the commission had already completed its probe into these cases prior to the launch of the fast-track settlement process.

Laas said M&R had tabled a proposed settlement for all five projects in the first month after the fast-track settlement process was closed out and had created a provision in its previous financial year for any penalty to be imposed.

He said no further progress had been made yet on settling these cases but Wilson Bayly Holmes-Ovcon (WBHO) had recently reached a settlement on one of the projects where M&R was also implicated.

“This is one of the five projects so hopefully we will get our turn soon.”

This case relates to collusive tendering on a Transnet project to upgrade a portion of the Sishen to Saldanha iron ore rail line. WBHO has reached agreement with the commission to pay a fine of R10.24m. This settlement still has to be confirmed by the Competition Tribunal.

Driven by the group’s international business platforms, M&R yesterday reported a 41 percent growth in diluted headline earnings a share from continuing operations to 62c in the six months to December.

M&R’s international business platforms accounted for 70 percent of revenue and 80 percent of earnings before interest and tax.

Revenue rose by 17 percent to R19 billion and attributable profit rocketed by 176 percent to R724m, largely on the R1.3bn profit on the disposal of the group’s construction products businesses. An interim dividend was not declared. The group’s order book decreased to R44.9bn from R48.3bn.

The shares inched up 1c to close at R25.26 yesterday. - Business Report

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