The Chief Executive Officer of the Competition Authority, Thula Kaira, has given the assurance that his organisation has teeth it can use to bite when the situation calls for it.
Based on experience, mere existence of oversight authorities does little to inspire confidence among the public and during a question-answer session that followed a presentation that Kaira made, Dr. Collin Monkge from the Vision 2016 Council, asked whether the Authority had “teeth to bite.”
“Yes, we have teeth. We can fine or recommend a fine but have no power to jail,” Kaira said at the Second National Stakeholders Conference on Competition that was hosted by the Authority at the Gaborone International Convention Centre last Thursday.
The Authority, Kaira added, can rein in unfair conduct and if a party fails to comply, can take the matter up with the High Court. By his account, the Competition Authority functions independently of political influence. He gave a hypothetical scenario of an aggrieved party approaching the minister of trade and commerce with a view to compelling the authority to overturn a decision that doesn’t favour him/her.
“The minister doesn’t have the legal powers to do that,” he said, drawing a parallel with a recent court case involving the Casino Control Board (CCB) and casino operators in Gaborone.
What happened in this particular case was that a company called Workman Holdings, which was to operate the ill-fated casino that was to be housed at Masa Centre in the new CBD, changed its name to Sealema Holdings and applied for a licence.
The CCB initially ruled that the change of name necessitated the restarting of the quite tortuous application process. Unhappy with this decision, the company appealed to the minister of trade and industry, Dorcas Makgato-Malesu, who agreed with its position that starting the process over would, in the language of documents that Sunday Standard has had access to, be “unjustified” and directed that the Board deal with Sealema’s application.
“The court said that the minister has no powers to direct the board,” Kaira said, to make the broader point that the same would apply to the Competition Authority.
He urged businesspeople to familiarise themselves with the law and policies that relate to competition.